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New Connecticut Legislation Could Help Shorten Gap for Teacher Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 3/16/2015

Under current Connecticut state law, teachers have up to 30 days after hiring to submit to fingerprinting and background checks. Combined with the backlogs that state and federal background checks often have, this law means that some teachers are allowed to work in schools for extended periods of time before they even pass a background check. For obvious reasons, this law is problematic. Teachers and other educational employees spend considerable amounts of unsupervised time with children, something that simply should not be allowed if they have not passed background investigations.

A Connecticut State Representative is in agreement with that last point and has drafted legislation that could change the requirements for good. Introduced to the House Education Committee, the proposal would cut the background check window to a fraction of what it is now. Indeed, the main goal of the legislation would be "To shorten the period of time that a person hired by a board of education is required to submit to a criminal history records check from 30 days to five business days". In other words, teachers would essentially have to get fingerprinted and have their background checks done immediately upon hiring or risk losing their job opportunity.

Of course, simply closing the gap for new hires to submit to checks does little good if state repositories or federal databases take their time processing those checks. That's why the proposal also includes a section that would require Connecticut's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection "to conduct expedited criminal records" for teachers, and "to waive the fee for such expedited service". Obviously, there's nothing that the state government can do to expedite whichever checks are being done through federal databases. Still, though, having state criminal checks processed within a week or so following a teacher's hiring would go a long way toward making schools safer.

Still, one does have to wonder if Connecticut would be better off not allowing teachers to start work at all until their background checks are cleared. Teachers might not like such an arrangement since it would force them to wait a bit between getting an employment offer and starting work. But the bottom line shouldn't be the contentment of the teachers, but the safety of the students. And there is no doubt that students would be safer if no teachers were allowed to start work before passing a criminal background check.



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