Pittsburgh Area School District Makes Updates to Background Check Policies

By Michael Klazema on 11/24/2014

The school board for Peters Township, Pennsylvania has opted to make a few notable changes to background check policies. And thanks to a state law that just recently went into effect, they won't be the last district in Pennsylvania to do so this year.

The Peters Township School District is responding to a recent piece of state legislation that requires schools to update background checks on employees and volunteers every three years. That's a big change over how Peters Township schools were doing things in the past. It used to be that volunteers only had to get a new background check every five years. As for employees, they were allowed to work forever on a single background check: no repeats necessary.

Though it will be costlier for schools, the new state law is a positive one. After all, schools should require repeat background checks for their workers. Not only do regular background checks help to catch new criminal offenses, but they also keep employees and volunteers accountable. In most areas, teachers and school workers are expected to report any new criminal convictions to their employers. Without the promise of a repeat background check, though, some individuals keep their criminal activity quiet. Repeat background checks, then, help to make the honor system more honorable.

Background check updates aren't the only changes stipulated by the new Pennsylvania state law. On the contrary, the legislation also has guidelines about what types of checks schools should be running on certain individuals. For instance, an employee or volunteer who has lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years or longer only has to undergo state police and Department of Public Welfare Checks. These screenings target statewide incidents of criminal history or child abuse charges.

Applicants, employees, or volunteers who recently moved to the state of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, are required to go through more sweeping FBI checks. These nationwide screenings look for criminal history and other charges but on a national level. In other words, lawmakers want to avoid school background check policies that allow criminals to slip through the cracks just because they don't have a record in Pennsylvania. With these new checks, a teacher or school volunteer won't be able to easily leave their criminal histories behind in other states.

The Peters Township School District is just one of many Pennsylvania school districts that will be making background check policy changes this month or next. The new state law requires schools to adopt compatible policies by the end of the year.


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