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

  • August 15 Background checks aren't a silver bullet that solves every concern about prospective new hires—they are a tool that must be used with care. How can an incorrect approach lead to inadequate vetting? 
  • August 13 How has legislation and regulation changed the way employers use criminal background checks? We look at some of the rules that modern companies must follow.
  • August 08 With many industries facing labor shortages, advocates and legislatures are reconsidering policies that exclude potential employees. Expansion of record expungement and "ban the box" rules could change the system. 
  • August 06 Continuous background screening or ongoing criminal monitoring is the best way to keep track of critical new developments on an employee’s criminal record. Learn how these background checks work. 
  • August 01

    A new lawsuit filed in New York alleges that department store chain Macy’s ignored federal hiring guidelines and laws, firing individuals for old and non-job-related criminal convictions. 


  • July 30 The Minneapolis City Council is considering a series of ordinances that would regulate the use of tenant background checks and security deposits. The city’s tight housing market has made it difficult for individuals with bad credit, eviction histories, or criminal records to find housing.
  • July 25 Following revelations about wrongdoing in USA Gymnastics at the hands of team doctor Larry Nasser, sports organizations must grapple with how to safeguard their members. Some have found more success than others. 
  • July 24 What do landlords want to know before accepting new tenants? Here are the basics included in the average tenant background check.
  • July 23 7-Eleven will pay nearly $2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit concerning its background check process. The lawsuit alleges that the convenience store chain violated the FCRA with its background check disclosure document.
  • July 22 Social and child service organization rely on background checks to vet employees, sponsors, drivers, and other staff members and volunteers. By helping to root out histories of violence, sexual abuse, and other red flags, our resources assist these organizations in keeping the people they serve safe.