Schools and Daycares Struggle to Comply with New Background Check Laws

By Michael Klazema on 8/14/2018

With the school year fast approaching, schools and daycares in several states are scrambling to comply with new background check legislation. States including Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee all have new laws on the books that will impact schools or daycares during the current hiring season.

In Kentucky, a new law requires all new school employees, student teachers, volunteers, and contractors to submit a letter from the state’s Cabinet of Health and Family Services. In the letter, new hires and volunteers are required to verify they do not have histories of child abuse or neglect. Schools are confused about the requirement—specifically, whether it is required for employees or contractors whose jobs involve no contact with children. This requirement exists on top of a required criminal background check for school employees.

There is also a backlog problem. Every school in the state is requesting the same form from the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, which is trying to keep up with those requests. The backlog could mean not every school gets a letter on file from every new hire by the end of the summer. Under the law, new hires would not be legally allowed to start their jobs. Some schools are exacerbating the issue by requesting forms for all current employees, even though the new law only requires a signed letter for new hires.

In Georgia, there is some controversy about whether the state will be ready to comply with a new federal law by its September 30 deadline. The law dates to 2014 and requires each state to establish “comprehensive background check systems” for child care workers. A federal audit from March suggested Georgia might not be in full compliance with the law until 2020, but the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning refuted this claim and said the state would meet most federal requirements by October.

Georgia likely isn’t the only state facing issues with this law. The original deadline for legislative compliance was September 30, 2017, but no state met that deadline. The federal government issued waivers to all 50 states, extending the deadline to this year.

In Tennessee, multiple laws went into effect on July 1 with the stated purpose of protecting underage school students from sexual abuse. The new law requires school districts to re-screen their employees every five years. Previously, state law only required background checks at the time of hire and demanded no ongoing criminal monitoring.

The state is reportedly letting school districts “phase in” the new policy over the next few years, which means that schools won’t necessarily have to run background checks on most of their existing employees right away. However, districts will be financially responsible for the checks and will have to achieve total compliance eventually.

All three of these cases show the importance of staying up to date with the latest background check laws. Following news and understanding the changes instituted by new legal policies can help organizations and institutions—including schools—stay compliant and current with their screening practices. Following’s blog is a good way to stay aware of the latest changes in background checks.



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