Local Communities in Massachusetts Take Background Checks into Their Own Hands

By Michael Klazema on 10/1/2013
A law enabling towns to conduct fingerprint-based state and national background checks went into effect in Massachusetts in May of 2012. Since then, 15 communities have chosen to pass their own background check policies, in part to fill gaps in policies enacted by the state.

The town of Stoneham, Mass. is considering following suit. Their proposed background check rules would require ice cream truck drivers, door-to-door salesmen, and various representatives of out of town businesses that may come into contact with town residents to pass a fingerprint-based background check.

According to town officials in Stoneham, the goal is for their policy is to extend the protections already offered by state laws and make sure that the most vulnerable members of the community's kids and the elderly'sare protected from those who would do them harm.

For example, as of earlier this year, state law in Massachusetts requires all school workers and licensed childcare providers, as well as all individuals who regularly visit a property where childcare is provided, to undergo national background checks.

But what about chance visitors to the property such as a salesman or a repair man? Communities like Stoneham have identified these individuals as potential risks as well. By requiring these individuals to pass a background check such as US OneSEARCH from, town officials can prevent anyone with criminal convictions indicating a potential predisposition to commit new crimes from interacting with vulnerable populations as part of their jobs. US OneSEARCH is comprehensive, affordable, and returns results almost instantly.

Large corporations already require their door-to-door vendors to pass background checks. Stoneham's proposal will make sure that other smaller companies follow suit. Adopting a background check policy is often easier than implementing it. This has already been seen on the state level, as the new background check law for school and childcare workers has already missed its implementation goal. The checks were supposed to be enforced at the beginning of this current school year, but have now been pushed back to the end of year. By that time over 250,000 individuals should have been checked under the law.

As with any background check policy, there has to be a balance between detecting nefarious characters and protecting people's rights. Officials in Stoneham are aware of this, and may model their policy after a similar one in Wakefield, Mass. which provides for individuals to explain their criminal record and provide any relevant information that may convince officials not to exclude them from employment on the basis of their criminal convictions.


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