Criminal Teacher Background Checks

All international schools are dealing with implementing criminal background checks on employees. This stems from the relatively recent cases of teachers involved with child abuse in international schools. This article from Slate “I Know How explains why the amendment requiring schools to do periodical criminal background checks on all faculty is not in the new version of No Child Left Behind Act, recently passed by the US congress.

Obviously, no one want wants child predators in the classroom, and all 50 states currently have teacher background check laws on the books. Forty-three states require background checks for nonteaching employees like bus drivers and cafeteria workers. But big loopholes exist. Not all background checks are nearly as thorough as the insane, multiday ceremony I had to navigate here in the District of Columbia. Many only apply to new hires and are never updated, which Toomey says helps to explain why “459 teachers and other school employees nationwide were arrested for sexual misconduct with children” last year.

Toomey is the US Senator that authored the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act amendment to the original No Child Left Behind.

The article is written by Laura Moser, who had to go through an extensive background check to volunteer at her child’s preschool.

I glommed onto the background-check provision for the simple reason that I myself have just barely survived the onerous process of getting approved to volunteer in my daughter’s preschool class for three hours a month next year. It was, to put it mildly, a huge pain in the ass. I had to fill out a Child Protection Registry request, on which I listed all my addresses for the past 18 years. After getting that form notarized, I had to schlep downtown to the police headquarters and fill out more paperwork for a criminal background check, and after that I had to get fingerprinted by an FBI mobile unit—all this, just to provide a monthly snack to a handful of 3-year-olds.

I was loudly annoyed by the hassle, but I understood its underlying purpose; I suppose anyone with unsupervised access to my children should submit to the same. But Toomey’s proposal—and the widespread resistance that it met—shows how complex background checks are.

Background checks get even more complex for international schools. Teachers move about between countries which complicates matters. For me example, I have worked in 7 countries during my career. Countries also have different laws regarding checks. Schools are getting around this by hiring agencies to do this for schools. It is an extra expense for schools.

This school year the JCIS (Japan Council of International Schools) will be looking at how we will handle this issue. We will be meeting in September to come up with policies. I am reading as much as I can to assist our school in setting a new policy.

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