Massachusetts Revises Background Check Law

By Michael Klazema on 8/16/2013

Implementation of a new background check law in Massachusetts has been delayed by the need to revise the wording of the law to satisfy federal requirements.

Last December, the Massachusetts legislature passed a new law that would expand background check requirements on child care workers and reduce the risk of putting known predators or criminals in close proximity to kids. Governor Deval Patrick gave the new law his stamp of approval in January, but as of yet none of the provisions of the new law have been implemented.

The reason is that the new law did not contain the correct references to federal statutes authorizing the use of FBI fingerprint background checks. Until they see the right language and the correct references in the law, the FBI will not run fingerprint checks for child care employers in the state of Massachusetts.

Currently, child care workers like school bus drivers, teachers, day care workers, and camp counselors are all required to pass a criminal background check. However, because this check is currently state-based, it doesn’t protect kids as well as it could.

It is widely acknowledged that state-based background checks are not as strong as national background checks, because a state-based check could come back clean even if an individual was convicted of crimes in another state. This essentially enables individuals who commit crimes against kids to simply move to a different state in order to escape their pasts and find new employment working with kids.

A national background check tool such as US OneSEARCH from is a much better option. US OneSEARCH uncovers public criminal records connected with a name and date of birth by comparing this identifying information against a collection of over 450 million records culled from state and local databases across the country. In almost every case, US OneSEARCH is actually faster and less expensive than a state-based check.

Due to last year’s bill’s inability to grant Massachusetts access to FBI fingerprint background checks, the state remains one of the very few states that does not require national background checks for teachers, child care workers, and other individuals who have regular close contact with kids as part of their jobs.

Legislators in Massachusetts are working hard to rectify this situation and give kids the same protections they already have in other states. A bill was introduced to correct the language in the law, and it has already passed the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Because the FBI does not comment on proposed legislation, Massachusetts residents won’t know for sure that their kids will be protected until the new bill gets signed into law and the first employer attempts to run an FBI background check on a prospective employee.


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