TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg, Barbara Buono and Shirley K. Turner, which would revise current criminal background check requirements for public and private school employees by requiring all employees who come in contact with students to submit to a background check was approved today by the Senate Education Committee.
“Anyone who comes in contact with our children on a regular basis should have a clean criminal record,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “As parents and grandparents, it is our responsibility to keep our children safe, and this legislation would add another layer of protection for them while they are at school.”
The Senators’ bill, S-110, would require all teachers and school district employees who come in contact with children to undergo a criminal background check. Under the bill, “employees” includes school faculty, administrators, maintenance and cafeteria staff, and contracted workers.
“As our children grow up, we can’t be with them at all times, but legislation like this can give us peace of mind in knowing that school districts are doing their part to ensure that our kids are safe,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex.
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.
“It is imperative that the people who work with our children are not only qualified to educate them, but are also honest, upstanding members of the community,” said Senator Turner, who chairs the Senate Education Panel. “This is a small step that we can take to ensure that our kids are safe while they are at school.”
The bill would also expand the list of offenses that would disqualify applicants from employment. The list includes employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime, violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and human trafficking.
This measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.