Earlier this year USA Today conducted an investigation that sent chills down the spines of parents across the country. The report showed teachers with histories of violence and even sex crimes were playing the system. Many were being allowed to resign instead of getting fired for inappropriate contact with students, and were then able to find their way back into classrooms by simply crossing into a different district. You can read our blog on the investigation here.
Now, U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wants to find a national solution. She has proposed H.R. 4666, the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act.” The legislation would require all school districts that receive federal funding – which is all of them - to conduct background checks on all school employees. The bill requires each employee to have a criminal background check that includes a search of State records, State-based child abuse and neglect registries as well as the National Sex Offender Registry. They must also have their fingerprints run through the FBI database.
Schools would be prohibited from hiring anyone that refuses the criminal background check, or who has been convicted of a list of violent crimes ranging from murder to rape, kidnapping, spousal abuse and many more.
These background checks will not be a one-time deal. Under the legislation, continuous checks would be required during the time of employment. (EBI refers to this as Infinity Screening.) School districts will also be required to keep more complete personnel files so dangerous teachers don’t fall through the cracks.
There are no penalties listed in the bill for schools that fail to comply with the legislation, but according to Rep. Blackburn, the background screening efforts will save them money in the long run. Like any other negligent hiring situation, it will always cost an employer less to screen out the bad apples than to replace a bad hire.