Buono Announced Legislation to Protect School Children from Employees with Criminal Records

State Auditor Report: Employees with Criminal Backgrounds Found to be Working in School Districts

EDISON – Citing concerns over individuals with criminal convictions found to be working in school districts, Senator Barbara Buono announced that she will be introducing legislation this fall to ensure that individuals disqualified under state law to work with children are in fact, prevented from being employed by school districts. According to a State Auditor’s review of 21 sampled school districts, six disqualified individuals were found to be working in school districts after being deemed unfit by the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) due to criminal records.

“It is inexcusable that individuals with criminal records slipped through the system and have access to children,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Additional safeguards need to be implemented immediately before any children are harmed.”

Under State law a school district may not employ individuals in positions which involve regular contact with pupils under the age of 18 unless the employer has first determined that no criminal history record exists that would disqualify an individual from being employed. The State Auditor completed an audit of data maintained by the Department of Education of 1,000 out of a total pool of 8,000 individuals disqualified to work at school districts for the period of January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2007. Six individuals were found to be working at school districts after being disqualified by OFAC.

The objective of the audit was to determine if any disqualified individuals identified in the database maintained by OFAC were nevertheless, employed by school districts under the supervision of the Department of Education.

“There is no doubt that if the entire database were audited there would be many more individuals with criminal records found to be working with children,” said Senator Buono.

In order to reduce the risk that disqualified individuals are employed in school districts the State Auditor’s report recommended that OFAC obtain the wage reporting data files from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development on a quarterly basis to match with its current list of disqualified individuals. Senator Buono’s bill is modeled after this common sense approach which will help identify individuals who should not be working with children.

“The chance that one child could be harmed due to a lack of oversight is unnerving,” said Senator Buono. “There is a clear and present likelihood that more individuals with criminal records than those identified by the Auditor’s small sampling, are currently being employed by New Jersey school districts. We need to act quickly.”

Senator Buono added that she will push for quick consideration of this bill in the fall legislative term.

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