TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg, Barbara Buono and Shirley K. Turner, which would require all public and private school employees who come in contact with students to submit to a background check was unanimously approved today by the full Senate.
“It is not too much to ask to require the school employees who interact with our children to undergo criminal background checks,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “The safety of New Jersey’s children is of extreme importance, and this legislation would create an additional layer of protection for our kids, while giving parents peace of mind that their kids are safe when they are at school.”
The Senators’ bill, S-110, would revise current criminal background check requirements for school employees by requiring that all teachers and school district employees who come in contact with children undergo a criminal background check. Under the bill, “employees” includes school faculty, administrators, maintenance and cafeteria staff, and cafeteria workers.
“Children spend 7+ hours a day at school, and during those hours it is imperative that anyone who comes into contact with them has their educational interest in mind,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “By requiring school employees to have clean criminal records, school districts would be increasing their role in keeping our children safe.”
In the case of fingerprinting, all employees hired prior to 1986 (before fingerprints were required), as well as those hired prior to 2003 (before fingerprints were able to be taken electronically), would have two years to be fingerprinted by the State Bureau of Investigation. Prior to 2003, applicants were fingerprinted, but once the background checks were complete the files were destroyed, the Senators said.
Currently, the federal government does not maintain an electronic fingerprint database, so this legislation would require all school employees to undergo a federal background check every two years.
“Anyone who works with our children must not only be qualified to educate them, but they must also be honest, upstanding members of the community,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “We are responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of our kids; this legislation would help protect both.”
The bill would also expand the list of offenses that would disqualify applicants from employment. The revised list would include employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime, violating the Anti-Terrorism Act, and human trafficking.
This measure now heads to the Assembly for consideration.