Indiana May Screen Teachers, Employees, More Stringently

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Indiana lawmakers are expected to review a requirement for state school employees to be given more frequent and thorough background checks. An investigation directed by the USA Today Network and the IndyStar found weaknesses in the state’s system of screening applicants.

A legislative panel approved recommendations this week that were targeted at fortifying the examination model for educators and modernized the process used for revoking teachers’ licenses.

The proposal would order school employees to submit to background checks every five years. The current method is to screen potential employees only when they are hired. The suggested periodic checks would involve any employee who has contact with students, such as teachers, coaches, and substitute teachers.

Additionally, the first screening would take place before the candidate begins the first day in the classroom. The current law requires a background check within the first three months of a person’s employment. But the law may soon expect education officials to check an employee’s references, including the opinion of the individual’s most recent supervisor, before they begin work.

But the suggestions of the Interim Study Committee on Education do not include a complete overhaul of the state’s employee screening model. The control on vetting new hires would remain the duty of the local school districts, reports Chelsea Schneider for the IndyStar.

However, one of the reasons for Indiana’s USA Today Network’s F rating was the state’s delegation of background checks to local school districts instead of having the state screen employees, which would likely be more consistent. Indiana was one of 12 states that received the lowest rating.

Rep. Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis), the chairperson of the study committee, said letting district officials do the background checks would help them be completed more quickly, and local administrators would not be left out of the loop, as sometimes occurs with school employees who commit offenses. The recommendations now travel to the Indiana General Assembly to be further considered.

According to the Associated Press, the new suggestions would place more checks on the judicial process so that teachers who commit criminal misconduct will not be able to jump from school to school without being detected.

Behning added:

“You get to a larger community and someone doesn’t live in the community, the district might not always be aware.”

Another added requirement is that the Indiana Department of Child Services reports more information to schools, especially in cases that include child abuse claims against an employee of a school that have occurred outside the school.

Indiana got another “black eye”due to a lack of screening after several high profile teacher sexual misconduct cases transpired in the state. Legislators want tougher consequences and actions to protect Indiana’s young ones from “predatory school employees.”

In July, USA Today’s investigation found that several state school districts had hired a man to substitute who had lost his teaching license in Texas after he was “caught” on NBC’s To Catch a Predator. The television camera ensnared him in an alleged solicitation of sex from a child. When someone saw a rerun of the show, that person recognized the man and shared the information with the state schools where he had substituted.

Currently, says Peter Balonon-Rosen, reporting for Indiana Public Media, the law only elicits background checks from staff who are fully licensed, like principals and teachers.