Massachusetts’ education system just got a complete overhaul of its criminal background check system, requiring national background checks for all potential employees that may come into contact with children. Already working in the education system? The law also affects you, as all current employees are required to undergo the national check within three years, also.
Loopholes in Education System Background Checks Closed
Prior to last January, Massachusetts law required that early education providers and those working in the school districts had to undergo criminal background checks, limited to the state’s criminal record system, which allowed for anyone with a criminal record obtained outside of Massachusetts to pass unnoticed into the education system. The types of jobs covered by this sort of background check, especially those that required fingerprinting, were also severely limited.
The objective of this new law, according to the drafters in the state legislature, is to keep Massachusetts up to date with laws having passed in other states that help link law enforcement on a national level. This means a new level of security that everyone in the public and private school systems must go through. What it does not mean, however, is a change in the substantive requirements to be hired for the jobs affected—that is to say, crimes that would have prohibited someone from having a job before the new law continue to bar them, even if they are found to be on the person’s record in another state.
New Law Requires Nationwide Database Check
The new law requires the criminal checks be done through a national database, so any criminal record in the United States should surface. In addition, the types of jobs affected include teachers, substitute teachers, other employees inside schools, child care providers, bus drivers, and some subcontractors. It also applies to people already employed in the system, who get three years to comply—no one is grandfathered out of being added to the fingerprint database or having their backgrounds checked through the national database.
Fingerprints Also Required, But Fees are Capped
The law also requires early education providers and school districts to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all teachers, school employees and early education providers in Massachusetts. The fingerprints are checked and saved through the FBI. The law also addresses the amount of money required to undergo these checks—for those licensed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, fees are capped at $55. The Department of Education also released a set of frequently asked questions about what the bill means for those working in the school system or aspiring to, where they explain that there are hardship exceptions for the fees, as well, and how to properly have fingerprints done to give to the database.
Employees of the school system have some years to abide by the new regulations, and school systems expected to help them find their way towards complying adequately with these regulations, which officials have expressed praise for given that they give the school system an enhanced ability to screen those that will work alongside the state’s children.