Pennsylvania Schools to Require Background Checks

Pennsylvania schools are banking on honesty to ensure that none of their employees have been arrested or convicted of the 26 crimes that disqualify employment.

A Dec. 5 report in the Altoona Mirror (see it here – includes comments from those who are not entirely convinced the system will work. One school board member asked who is going to take the time to verify the self-reporting forms that are turned in by faculty members.

Other parents are probably wondering where the line of defense is. Aren’t schools supposed to perform a comprehensive analysis of any employee who works closely with kids? After all, we know that relying on the honor system is a decidedly unnecessary and risky gamble. Child predators, spousal abusers and rapists could easily slip through the cracks if no one is watching.

There are companies like MyTruSeal, out of Lakewood, Colo., that specialize in helping workers, whether they be teachers or delivery drivers, verify their clean record for potential employers. It doesn’t cost a lot and the fee is paid by the employee who is being screened.

The criminal history forms are now required by the Pennsylvania School Code, which was amended in September. A school spokeswoman said that if an administrator suspects an applicant or employee is not being truthful, they can “obtain a criminal background check for that individual.” Shouldn’t that be the logical first step in awarding a job?

An attorney for the schools says sanctions against falsifying past arrests, which include employment termination and criminal prosecution, are severe enough to deter people from lying. Doubtful.

A criminal will find access to victims by any means necessary, and if there is a loophole to be exploited, it surely will be. The best bet would be to avoid conflict and perform a thorough check of each employee. If school front offices are so careful about letting strangers into the building, you would think there might more effort to screen the adults with whom the kids work closely.

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