School can be one of the most vulnerable atmospheres that children are exposed to. Since parents cannot be present and some individuals are mentally ill, schools conduct background checks on potential employees during the hiring process. While a background check entails many elements, most schools place emphasis on verifying identity, and evaluating criminal along with employment history.
The typical background check begins with the social security number of the applicant. In most instances, schools use the social security number to verify an applicant's employment history and conduct credit reviews when necessary. Teachers undergoing a background check should be prepared to furnish proof of credentials and explain any gaps in employment along with poor references.
FBI Criminal Checks
In addition to standard school investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also conducts criminal background checks on all incoming faculty and staff. The primary purpose of the FBI criminal evaluation is to locate and disqualify child predators. The process involves fingerprinting for teachers and other licensed staff. While unlicensed staff may not be fingerprinted, the FBI will provide the school with detailed criminal records that include everything from minor to major arrests and convictions.
Pennsylvania has one of the strongest records for conducting extensive background checks. Under Act 114 of 2006, the school board may request a variety of background checks. In fact, the board requires a criminal records check from the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI. Applicants must also pass a history clearance from the Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse. The state of Pennsylvania requires individuals to have no records of child abuse or neglect in addition to being free from sexual offenses.
Although Pennsylvania conducts model background checks, many states fail to properly screen applicants before hiring them. Kenneth S. Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services has made several suggestions for improvements to school background investigations. According to Trump, all schools should identify the limitations of criminal history checks and conduct evaluations that search various databases. Schools should also investigate all employees and inquire about past work performance when evaluating employment history. After hiring employees, Trump suggests periodic criminal checks to ensure good moral behavior.
- National School Safety and Security Services; School Employee & School Teacher Background Checks-Schools can do more to prevent and detect sexual predators in schools; 1996-2007
- Clearinghouse/UCAN; Fact Sheet 16-Employment Background Checks, a jobseeker's guide; 1994-2007
- Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Background Checks (Act 114); 2011
- U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice; FBI Criminal History Checks for Employment and Licensing; 02/21/11
- Katy McDonnell/Digital Vision/Getty Images