Indiana Legislative Committee Wants Repeat Background Checks for Teachers

By Michael Klazema on 1/29/2017
A bill pending in the Indiana legislature could change the way that schools throughout the state complete background checks and ongoing criminal monitoring for teachers. Per a recent report from the Associated Press, the bill has been unanimously endorsed by a “legislative committee” within the Indiana General Assembly. Next, the proposal will be considered and voted on by the General Assembly.

If passed, the bill would require teachers throughout the state to go through repeat background checks after every five years of employment, coverage explains. Right now, state law requires schools to run background checks on teachers at the time of hiring but does not have any stipulations about repeat checks or ongoing criminal monitoring. The proposal would apply to public, private, and charter schools in Indiana.

Supports state that the goal behind the legislation is to keep children safer. Per a report from WBAA, a public broadcasting station in Indiana, the state’s Department of Education has 85 open investigations about “alleged educator misconduct.” Roughly 40 of those cases involve allegations about teachers having inappropriate (and sometimes sexual) relationships with their students.

Senator David Kruse, one of the big proponents of the new background check proposal, thinks that more frequent screenings for teachers could help prevent misconduct. He argued that an applicant with a clean background at the time of hiring wouldn’t necessarily look the same after five years. “You may have made some wrong decisions and the school doesn’t know about it,” he explained.

In addition to providing an ongoing monitoring system to keep teachers accountable, the new legislature would get background checks on record for longtime teachers, reports explain. Indiana passed its teacher background check law in 2009. Some teachers who were hired before that may have never gone through background checks, supporters note: the law passed in 2009 made sure that those longtime educators were “grandfathered in” rather than requiring schools to complete background checks. If this new proposal is passed into law, it will apply to every teacher whether they were hired before or after 2009.

Despite the focus of the bill on protecting kids and creating safer school environments, the legislation has elements that could draw ire from educators, reports explain. According to the AP brief on the legislative proposal, there is a chance that teachers would have to pay for their own background checks.


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