Indiana General Assembly Considering Stricter School Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 8/18/2016

With back-to-school time looming for most school districts throughout the country—and with school already in session for some districts—background checks for teachers, volunteers, and visitors have been a popular topic of conversation. The most recent headline on the subject comes from Indiana, where the state's General Assembly is reportedly considering stricter background check requirements for school employees.

According to a recent report from Indy Star, the General Assembly could change the law so that school employees have to go through background checks more frequently. Right now, state law only requires teachers and other employees to go through background checks every five years. The General Assembly is also considering background checks at the teacher licensing stage. Teachers don't currently have to go through screenings when they apply for or receive teaching licenses from the state. Instead, the burden of background checks falls on the school districts.

The Indiana General Assembly was moved to take another look at school employee screening laws earlier this year after a USA TODAY Network investigation. The investigation graded every state in the country on an A-F scale based on different criteria. Indiana was one of 12 states to receive a grade of "F." A big part of the reason for the failing grade is that the state doesn't screen teachers at the licensing stage.

Indiana state law requires every school to run background checks on new personnel before hiring. According to administrators, checks at the licensing stage would add another layer of security to the system. Requiring repeat background checks every five years would also help to reduce the likelihood of abuse or unreported criminal activity. Right now, schools only have to run background checks at the time of hiring. While districts can maintain their own policies for re-checking existing employees, the state enforces no legal requirement.

The USA TODAY Network investigation might not be the only reason that Indiana's General Assembly is working to overhaul the state's school personnel background check laws. The Indy Star report noted that the state has seen a rash of sexual abuse cases involving teachers and students. By implementing another layer of background checks for teachers and making repeat background checks a legal responsibility for school districts, the state aims to prevent such scandals from occurring in the future.


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