Could a Safer Schools Initiative Be on the Way in Indiana?

By Michael Klazema on 9/2/2016

As part of her reelection campaign, Indiana's Glenda Ritz—the state's sitting Superintendent of Public Instruction—is vowing to bring a "safer schools" initiative to the state. On Monday, August 30th, Ritz went on record promising better teacher background checks, among other revamps of state policies. Ritz said that she would push for safer school initiatives if she is reelected in November.

Expanding background checks for teachers is just the tip of the iceberg for what Ritz would seek to accomplish in her next term. She said that she would implement more specialized training requirements for teachers and other school staff members as well as a more streamlined system for revoking teaching licenses if teachers are convicted of certain crimes.

According to a report from the Vincennes Sun-Commercial, an Indiana newspaper, Ritz's promises have received a mixed reception from educators and school officials. The newspaper interviewed educators in and around the town of Vincennes, Indiana. Most superintendents were supportive, but others were concerned about how much expanded background checks could end up costing.

Ritz aims to require schools to go more in-depth with their screenings of new teachers rather than revamping the state licensing process. These deeper background checks would have a stronger chance of catching criminal convictions and other red flags in teachers' records. As reports have found, they would also represent a heftier investment—and school districts, teachers, or applicants would likely be the ones footing the bill.

The district superintendents interviewed for the Vincennes Sun-Commercial article expressed interest in the benefits of the expanded background checks but also concern about the cost. One superintendent estimated that, for his school district, broadened background checks would cost about $3,500 per year. Ritz wants to implement a statewide requirement for teachers and other school personnel to go through the vetting process every five years.



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