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Mass. Gov. Signs Bill Requiring National Background Checks for School Employees

Deval Patrick

A new law signed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will require all school employees in the Commonwealth to undergo both a state and federal background check. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The law signed by Gov. Patrick titled An Act Relative to Background Checks would require teachers and other school employees to submit to a national fingerprint supported background review. Prior to the passage of the bill, school employees in the Commonwealth had only needed to submit to a background check on the state level.

State Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch, who chairs the House Committee on Education, said that she pushed for the legislation after she heard that Massachusetts was only state in the country to not require national background checks on its school employees…

The new law was strongly supported by the Patrick-Murray administration. Outgoing Secretary of Education Paul Reville praised the work done by the legislature and the Governor, and said it will do well to better protect students across the state into the future.

The bill will require that not only public school employees, but also employees of private schools and day-care centers submit to the background checks.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association was an advocate for the passage of the bill. A statement from the Associated via email reads in part…

“The MTA was successful in advocating that any law related to educator background checks should not be limited to public schools, but also should include all private schools and licensed child-care programs.”

The MTA also said in the statement that they worked with lawmakers for the reforms to the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information system in 2010. Part of the 2010 reforms to CORI gave employers access to an online CORI database of past offenders starting in 2012.

Representative Peisch said that there was little opposition to the bill, but did say there was some concern from other lawmakers over who should pay for the background checks.

A one-time fee for current employees is capped at $55, and for prospective employees $35.

Newly hired employees will be required to undergo background checks prior to the next school year, while existing employees will have to submit to the checks before the 2016-20-17 school year.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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