A newly proposed human trafficking bill would likely include provisions to strengthen background check requirements for teachers and other school employees.
California Senator George Miller first introduced the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act (H.R.2083) back in May 2013, which would require criminal background checks for school employees. This is currently somewhat of a gray area, with states having their own discretion regarding the use of background checks on school employees. Since then, Miller and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey have been working to get the bill approved.
If passed, H.R.2083 would require each state educational agency (SEA) that receives government funds to cross-reference each employee’s background against the criminal registry or respiratory for Identification System. Since then, he and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey have been working to get the bill approved.
But the human trafficking bill wouldn’t include H.R.2083. Several educational organizations, such as the Teachers’ Union and School Superintendents Association (SSA), are lobbying senators to reject the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act and instead support a similar background check bill introduced by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander.
“Background checks for school employees are a critical part of ensuring that every student has a safe learning environment. NEA supports timely pre-employment criminal background checks by school districts for all school employees who work with children without supervision—school districts should never hire someone who is not qualified to work with students,” wrote Mary Kusler, Director of Government Relations for the National Education Association (NEA).
So, what’s the difference between the two proposed background check bills? Both Miller and Alexander’s bills are strikingly similar, requiring all government-funded schools to perform background checks on each and every employee whom they hire. However, there are a few key differences between them that shouldn’t go unnoticed. While Miller’s bill would require background checks on school employees to use the criminal registry for the state in which the employee has resided, the child abuse and neglect registries, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, and the National Sex Offender Registry, Alexander’s bill would give schools the freedom choose their own background check registries.
Furthermore, Alexander’s bill would allow states to use federal funds to improve their existing online registries and databases, as well as provide additional training to school employees so they can identify possible cases of child abuse and neglect.
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