School background checks bill goes too far

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Background checks of prospective teachers and other school employees are fundamentally important to Indiana families. Children are entrusted to educators several hours a day during the academic year, and parents should be secure in the knowledge that teachers, administrators and school support staff are law-abiding citizens.

However, Indiana House Bill 1068, proposed by Rep. Jeffrey Thompson, R-Danville, goes a few steps over the line in attempting to establish more comprehensive background checks of school job applicants.

It would require a financial check as well as a criminal background check, and also would stipulate that school employees should be rechecked every five years.

We agree on one point: Indiana sorely needs to upgrade its criminal background check of applicants for jobs at schools. Currently, state law does not require a check of criminal records in other states, nor does it call for standard federal court checks.

As a result, a teacher without legal transgressions in Indiana can get hired here despite a conviction for child solicitation in another state. That oversight has jeopardized the safety of some Hoosier students in the past and will compromise others in the future if it’s not corrected.

But the bill should stop there. What need is there for a financial background check of classroom teachers? That seems overly invasive.

Yes, check the financial background of those who handle money for the school system. A history of bankruptcies, for example, is an indicator that applicant wouldn’t be competent managing a school budget.

Likewise, repeating criminal background checks every five years for employees already working in a school system seems over the top. Administrators should know enough about their staff that criminal charges would come to the surface quickly.

Also, mandatory five-year criminal checks would cost schools precious funding.

So, it’s clear that House Bill 1068 should be voted down, or completely altered to focus on requiring criminal background checks of school job applicants across all states and the federal court system.

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