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Massachusetts School Association Wants to Widen Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 9/25/2017
A Massachusetts association of private schools wants to make sure that its schools are screening for all types of abuse. Per a report from The Milford Daily News, the Massachusetts Association of Chapter 766 Approved Private Schools currently only screens for “substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect.” Abuse or neglect of adults with disabilities falls outside of the frame of the association’s background checks.

As coverage explains, the schools in the association currently run their abuse background checks through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. The DCF has detailed databases of child abuse accusations and incidents. If a prospective school employee shows up in this database, DCF reports the information to the school that ordered the check. Per administrators, this system helps schools keep known child abusers away from students.

Jim Major, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Chapter 766 Approved Private Schools, claims the current checks aren’t enough. Per reports, the association is responsible for representing private schools in Massachusetts that are authorized to offer “specialized programs to students with severe disabilities.” As such, Major claims the association should be concerned with identifying abusers of individuals with disabilities, even if the victims aren’t children. DCF checks only show cases of abuse or neglect committed against children. The association currently has no background check policy dedicated to identifying candidates who have abused or neglected disabled adults.

Major says the issue isn’t isolated to the Massachusetts Association of Chapter 766 Approved Private Schools: it’s a statewide gap, one he identifies as “unintended” but a gap nonetheless.

A bill currently pending in the Massachusetts legislature could close that gap. If passed, reports note, the bill would create an agreement across multiple departments and agencies with the goal of providing more comprehensive background checks for prospective school employees. The Department of Children and Families would be involved, as would the Department of Secondary Education. Central to the agreement would be the Disabled Persons Protection Commission.

The bill would create a system in which the Disabled Persons Protection Commission would be required to provide background check reports to schools, coverage explains. These reports would include information about the abuse and neglect of disabled adults. If a prospective school employee had a record of substantiated abuse or neglect against an adult with a disability, a red flag would come up on their background check. The Disabled Persons Protection Commission would play a role similar to what the DCF does for schools currently. The pending legislation would create the infrastructure for schools to access extra abuse information.

Sources: http://www.milforddailynews.com/news/20170922/school-association-seeks-background-check-reforms

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