Large Kentucky School District Adopts New Background Check Policies

By Michael Klazema on 12/8/2017
Kentucky’s biggest school district is preparing to implement new background check policies. Per a report from Louisville-based Fox affiliate WDRB, Jefferson County Public Schools is tweaking its practices in accordance with a new state law. The law requires school districts to have a letter on file from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for every teacher and employee. This letter is meant to certify the employee in question does not have a history of child abuse or neglect.

The law will not only impact future JCPS hires, reports note. The school district must have Health and Family Services on file for all workers, which means it will need to re-screen existing employees. If a longtime employee has an abuse or neglect infraction on their record, the district would be required by state law to fire that person.

The district has been rolling out the new policies throughout 2017, coverage confirms. Implementation began with JCPS early childhood education programs. The practices will now be brought to the district’s elementary, middle, and high schools. JCPS is currently in the process of determining how to handle the rollout. The state law doesn’t officially go into effect until July 1, 2018.

As reports note, of the existing employees the district screened using the new state standards, three had abuse or neglect violations. JCPS had to fire each.

Going forward, JCPS will have to apply the standards to all employees. In addition to teachers, coverage indicates, state law requires Health and Family Services letters on file for bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and more. The stated intention of the law is to keep child abusers away from kids. By requiring school districts to screen workers whose jobs put them near children, the state claims it will assist in keeping kids safe.

JCPS officials have stated their appreciation for the mission of the new law but have expressed their concerns that it will make it difficult to fill certain positions. Jefferson County Public Schools is by far the largest school district in Kentucky, serving more than 100,000 students across 175 schools. The state’s next biggest district, Fayette County Public Schools, has about 40,000 students. Given the number of schools and the size of the district, JCPS needs a large workforce to keep things running. District officials have stated their concern that extra background checks and higher standards will either scare candidates away or thin the applicant pool—especially for historically less desirable jobs like bus driver or custodian.

The district will likely vote on how to implement the new background check policies soon, reports indicate.

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