FINGERPRINT CHECK BILL TO GO INTO EFFECT FOR THE 2013-2014 SCHOOL YEAR
Recently, the Governor signed into law a bill amending Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71, Section 38R to require school districts to conduct state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks to determine the suitability of current and prospective employees, any individuals who regularly provide transportation to children, and any subcontractor or laborer retained by the school committee to perform work on school grounds who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children. This amendment supplements school districts' pre-existing requirement to conduct state criminal background checks of the same classes of individuals. The obligation to conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks does not extend to volunteers. Volunteers, however, are still subject to a non-fingerprint based criminal background check.
Specifically, school committees shall be responsible for obtaining fingerprint-based criminal background checks with regard to current and prospective employees for whom the committee is the hiring (appointing) authority. The superintendent, principal or other administrator shall be responsible for obtaining such checks on current and prospective employees and the other individuals, subcontractors and laborers referenced above.
The results of criminal background checks must be maintained confidentially, provided school committees, superintendents or principals must notify the Commissioner of Education if they receive any criminal record information relevant to an individual's fitness for licensure.
The new law also provides that the applicant shall pay a fee for the fingerprint-based criminal background check, which may be reimbursed to the applicant on the basis of financial hardship.
Fingerprint-based criminal background checks must be conducted for any new employee hired for the 2013-2014 school year. All other covered individuals currently employed must have a fingerprint-based criminal background check completed prior to the 2016-2017 school year. The new law calls for the DESE to adopt regulations detailing the manner in which fingerprint-based criminal background checks must be conducted for current employees.