N.C. School Board to Start Employee Background Checks

For many industries, employee background checks – also called “routine background screenings” – may seem excessive. However, in certain industries in which money is handled or in which children, the elderly, or the disabled are given care or supervision, employee background checks create a safer, more dependable workforce.

As a result of this notion, the Johnston County Board of Education in Smithfield, N.C. recently revealed it plans to start conducting such periodic screenings on its staff and teachers.

Previously, background checks were only conducted during hiring. Now, district employees will have their criminal history occasionally pulled and examined. Ramifications regarding this new practice, however, have not been revealed.

Just like pre-employment background checks, employee screenings are never identical and consistent. It appears, at least from the basic news story, that the Johnston County Board of Education will be conducting strictly criminal background checks. Nevertheless, as credit is a growing factor in hiring, particularly for those in the financial field or those handling money, periodic credit checks are another possibility.

As the result of the recent Sandusky scandal at Penn State, higher education institutions are additionally revising their policies to include employee background checks on teachers, staff, and even volunteers.

What can happen in response to routine background screenings? Much like pre-employment background checks, results are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and, in many instances, employees may be given a time period to clean up their report.

Employers, however, aren’t always as understanding. As was the case with Navy contractor background checks done after new federal homeland security requirements, a large percentage of contract workers were terminated after their routine reports brought back issues. Because these workers were not full-time employees, the negative marks on their screenings were not revealed at the time, and they had no recourse.

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Faculty at Florida University Question Background Check Policy

At the end of November, it was reported that the Florida Gulf Coast University faculty was speaking out against the recent background check policy. According to the Eagle News, the new policy, which went into effect on September 18, requires all current and applying employees to pass a “level 2” background check involving fingerprints. The prints are then run through a national criminal background check system.

Before the changes went into effect, only employees handling funds or working at the school’s Family Resource Center were screened. On November 16, teachers spoke up at the faculty senate meeting, questioning the necessity of the procedure and addressing the actual increase of safety it could bring and wasting taxpayers’ money.

One particular issue was the emphasis on sex crimes and convictions involving minors. Although, per the recent EEOC background check suggestions, criminal convictions cannot affect an employer’s status, this is not the case when the above crimes are considered. Additionally, faculty members mention that this policy won’t fully weed out sex offenders.

Criminal background checks have been considered as part of the college application process in the past, including its potential inclusion on the Common Application. Florida Gulf Coast University faculty also consider this procedure a must for their school. Michael Fauerbach, a professor in the Division of Ecological Studies, stated regarding this issue: “If you are serious about safety, we have to look into the students. Student-student interactions are more common than faculty-student interactions.”

Florida Gulf Coast University is not the only college to revise its background check policy in recent years. After the Sandusky scandal shocked the campus, Penn State made significant revisions to its policy before the fall semester. A greater pool of faculty was screened, as well as child abuse registries, credit history, and driving records examined for many candidates and new hires.

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