Background checks for teachers increasing

NDIANAPOLIS — Indiana schools soon will be required to take extra steps in order to strengthen background check requirements for their employees.

House Enrolled Act 1079 requires all school employees to complete an expanded criminal background check every five years. This affects teachers, support staff and administrators. The legislation also tightens the requirement for when a new applicant must obtain both a criminal background check and child protection index check.

All new school employees must complete a criminal background check within 30 days and a child protection index check within 60 days under the new law, which was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in April and takes effect Saturday.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is working on how it will implement the new policies.

“Anytime new legislation is enacted, there has been some reason, some cause to create a conversation and thus a law is passed,” Superintendent Jim Roberts said. “The legislature has wrestled with this. They’ve seen incidents across schools in Indiana as well as the country with inappropriate behavior between a staff member and a child. It’s created a need for them to tighten up the background checks.”

Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, who co-authored the legislation, said the new law was necessary in ensuring schools continuously provide a safe environment for students.

“I believe all teachers support this except the ones who don’t belong in classrooms,” Smith said. “No school corporation wants to employ a teacher who is not good for students.”

BCSC currently requires all new employees to complete both a background check and a child protection index check, with school employees covering the cost.

Paying for the ongoing background checks is something that the school district will have to determine, however.

Roberts said the corporation will negotiate with certified staff members in September to determine who will pay bear the cost for additional background checks. The corporation estimated it would cost nearly $11,000 every year to complete checks on 20 percent of school employees annually.

Last year, the corporation contracted with SafeHiring Solutions, a company that provides background check screening services, to complete all new-applicant background checks.

“The applicants pay for the background check online so we are completely out of that whole picture,” said Teresa Heiny, assistant superintendent for human resources. “We have someone here whose responsibility is to make sure those are all completed as we hire people.”

The corporation has not determined whether it will continue to use SafeHiring Solutions for the more frequent checks.

Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, said that while the new law will not end all possibilities of misconduct within a school district, it will add an extra layer of protection.

“You can never be too safe when it comes to our kids,” Silverman said.

Roberts said he looks forward to seeing how the stricter measures will improve the state’s education system.

“We want to ensure that our employees that are working with our children are the best they can be, and that our kids are safe and their families can trust that they are safe in our care,” he said.

At a glance

Starting Saturday, when a new state law takes effect, school district employees:

Must obtain expanded criminal background check within 30 days of employment

Must obtain expanded child protection index check within 60 days of employment

School must require expanded criminal background check on each employee every 5 years

New applicants responsible for all costs associated with obtaining both checks unless the school agrees to pay the costs

Source: Indiana House Enrolled Act 1079 ####