Which Background Checks Are Done for Teachers?

By Michael Klazema on 4/9/2019

Every state has slightly different requirements when it comes to background checks for teachers. This fact was widely discussed back in 2016 when a USA Today article graded each state based on its policies and practices for teacher background checks. In that report, only seven states earned an “A” grade, while 12 states and Washington, D.C. all received grades of “F.” The report illuminates how significantly background checks for teachers can vary from state to state and even from school to school.

USA Today graded state background check policies based on three categories. For the first category, the newspaper looked at how thorough each state’s policies for pre-employment background checks were.

In some states, criminal history searcheswork history verifications, and other background checks are required at the state level. The state conducts these background checks after a teacher applies for certification. A teacher cannot receive a teaching certificate in that state without passing a background check.

In other states, background checks fall to individual schools or school districts. In its report, USA Today penalized states for having policies that fell in the latter category, ruling that such policies were more vulnerable to loopholes and oversights.

Even in states where teachers have gone through background checks at the state level, schools may require additional background checks of their own. These checks can include more criminal history screenings, professional license checks (to verify teacher certification), reference checks (to learn about a teacher’s background from previous employers or colleagues), education verification checks (to ensure that the teacher has the proper degrees to teach certain subjects), searches of sex offender and child abuse registries, and others—for instance, many schools require regular drug testing for employees.

USA Today graded states on two other categories regarding teachers who have been accused of misconduct. First, the newspaper looked at whether states publicly shared information about teachers who had been sanctioned for misconduct. There is a nationwide database into which states can report teacher sanctions, making it more difficult for teachers who have been stripped of their licenses in one state to get licensed elsewhere. Second, the paper looked at whether states required schools to report allegations of teacher misconduct to the state. In some cases, school districts have allowed alleged predators to resign quietly and pursue education jobs elsewhere—a practice known as passing the trash.

When it comes to teacher background check processes, schools are first obligated to comply with state laws. Implementing additional background checks beyond what the state requires is possible—and it may be one of the most critical steps that schools can choose to take to fully protect their students and staff members.

One smart strategy for schools is ongoing criminal monitoring to keep an eye on teachers for recent troubles with the law. At, we have a service that makes ongoing criminal monitoring easy for employers.

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • May 26

    As businesses reopen across the country, courthouses are resuming in-person operations. Here’s what you need to know about how the reopening process will impact background checks, particularly county criminal history searches.

  • May 21

    A new congressional resolution could reallocate 40,000 visas to bring foreign healthcare workers to the United States. Here’s what healthcare organizations should know about recruiting and hiring these individuals.

  • May 19 Making contact tracing a key part of its reopening strategy, New York will begin a massive wave of temporary hiring to tackle this unique logistical challenge.
  • May 14 With a large percentage of the workforce carrying out work duties from home, employers require new oversight options that balance productivity with privacy.
  • May 14 When employers conduct employee background checks, which data sources do they rely on for accurate and up-to-date findings?
  • May 13 A new app called “Health Hero Match” could help short-staffed hospitals find qualified healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis. While the app guides the matchmaking process, hospital systems shouldn’t forget the importance of thorough healthcare background checks.
  • May 11

    From hiring freezes to virtual interviews to slowed-down employee background checks, recruiting has shifted in significant ways since COVID-19 emerged in the United States.


  • May 11

    From hiring freezes to virtual interviews to slowed-down employee background checks, recruiting has shifted in significant ways since COVID-19 emerged in the United States.


  • May 07 Hiring during a pandemic is a significant challenge for healthcare organizations for several reasons. We explain some of these hurdles and the importance of healthcare background checks.
  • May 05

    Individuals who have had multiple legal names pose a challenge for employers conducting background checks. Here’s what to know about the alias background check option.