Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that mandates potential new school employees, including school bus drivers, to submit fingerprints for criminal background checks, the state education office announced today.
Under the bill, H. 4307, the Department of Early Education and Care and school districts are authorized to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all newly hired teachers, school employees, bus drivers, subcontractors, early education and care, and out-of-school time providers. For new school employees, the background checks must be done before the start of the 2013-2014 school year. All current employees must undergo national background checks during the next three years, before the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. The bill also applies to those seeking to adopt children or become foster parents in the state.
The fingerprints will be submitted to the state police for a state criminal history check and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a national criminal history check.
“Prior to this law, school districts and early education providers were allowed only to conduct name-based Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks covering criminal history record information for crimes committed in Massachusetts,” DEEC officials said in a statement. “These CORI checks did not include any criminal history record information for crimes committed outside the Commonwealth.”
The bill made its way into the legislature in last July and was on passed Dec. 31. The measure approval came weeks after authorities announced an indictment against a convicted sex offender they say videotaped himself sexually assaulting children from his wife’s unlicensed day care business.
Last year, the Newtown (Mass.) Public Schools expanded its background check procedure for its teachers, including the addition of Sex Offender Registry (SORI) checks. The district’s expansion followed the arrest last January of a Newtown elementary school teacher charged with multiple counts of child pornography and indecent assault and battery.
David Ettinger was later charged in federal court for his involvement with an international child pornography Website, and was sentenced to 45 years in prison with a lifetime of supervision.
Massachusetts follows Oregon, which passed a similar law in 1993, New York, Maine and Texas in requiring fingerprinting school teachers. In Texas, the bill lead to a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency by one teacher who asserted the law violated her First Amendment right to freedom of religion.