Since 2003, the Texas schools have required background checks for all newly hired teachers and certified employees. Anyone not falling into these two categories or hired before 2003 were not included in the background checks, though some school districts included them on a local basis.
In the fall of 2006, several newspapers investigated the quality of these background checks and found that the information was often incomplete or received weeks or even months after educators were hired. Here are some of the problems with the previous Texas schools system, according to an article on March 27 by the Dallas Morning News:
• The Dallas school district conducts checks, but they did not report the criminal histories of educators to a state agency within the required seven days. One teacher had received a deferred adjudication probation in 2002 for indecent exposure. A teacher’s aide had received probation in 2002 for endangering a child.
• Since 2003, more than 200 people, who sought to be certified as educators within the Texas schools, were found to have serious offenses in their pasts. These included sexual misconduct and crimes against children.
• As recently as the 2004-2005 school year, 66 certified Texas schools teachers were found to be registered sex offenders by the State Board for Educator Certification.
Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) was appalled by the fall news articles that cited some Texas schools teachers had been arrested on sex charges and others with criminal records. Knowing that nothing is more important than the safety of Texas schools’ children, she decided to do something about the situation.
Shapiro introduced a bill that the legislature passed at the end of March. Now, all employees of the Texas schools must pass a national criminal background check. They all must submit to being fingerprinted for this procedure — new hires, all current employees, teachers to bus drivers, and administrators to janitors. Any employee with a sexual offense or felony against a child on their record will lose their job. New applicants with such records will not be considered. Anyone with a history of crimes against children will be barred from employment within the Texas schools.
The new law also establishes a new statewide clearinghouse for criminal background information. All state agencies and all districts within the Texas schools will have access to the database, which must be current within three years. The database will be housed in the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The new criminal background checks for all employees of the Texas schools and the creation of the clearinghouse is estimated to cost about $34 million. The state will pick up the tab for this one.
Source by Patricia Hawke