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Should Teachers, Child Care Workers Submit Fingerprints for Background Checks?

Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation that would require teachers, workers at child care centers and school bus drivers to submit fingerprints for criminal background checks.

UPDATED FRIDAY, JAN. 11 at 11:55 A.M.

Should school and child care employees fingerprinted before starting employment in order to check their criminal backgrounds?

The Associated Press recently reported Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is considering signing legislation that would require teachers, workers at child care centers and school bus drivers to submit fingerprints for criminal background checks.

On Friday, the state education office announced in a press release that Patrick signed the bill on Thursday, authorizing the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and school districts to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all teachers, school employees and early education providers in Massachusetts.  

"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," the press release said. "These CORI checks did not include any criminal history record information for crimes committed outside the Commonwealth."

The fingerprint background checks would also apply to everyone seeking to adopt children or become foster parents, as the legislation is written.

Fingerprints would be submitted to the Massachusetts State Police for a state criminal history check and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a national criminal history check, reported the Associated Press.

The state Legislature passed the bill at the end of December, weeks after John Burbine was arrested on charges he sexually abused children at his wife's unlicensed child care business in Wakefield.

Other cases that unfolded in the past year include a former Newton elementary school teacher who was sentenced to 45 years in prison on child pornography charges; a Taunton High School teacher accused of various sex crimes against underage teens; and 30-year-old allegations against a former Foxborough educator.

Massachusetts wouldn't be the first state to enact such a law. Oregon passed a similar law in 1993, and New York and Maine require fingerprinting of school teachers. Texas also has a fingerprint law for teachers, which led to a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency by one teacher who asserted the law violated her First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

What do you think? Will the fingerprinting help keep kids safe, or is this a step too far? Tell us in the comments section below.

Karl Ian Sagal March 13, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Paul. M said he did volunteer to, and had his fingerprints taken.
Karl Ian Sagal March 13, 2013 at 10:02 PM
I am proud of my veteran status. And any veteran, who fought or died for your constitutional rights, was fingerprinted in order to be allowed to fight or die for your freedoms. Teachers, bus drivers, and anyone else who works with children, and gets paid with my tax dollars, should be fingerprinted. If you choose a job where I do not pay your salary, you may have a better argument, but lots of employers require finger prints, and I am no different.
Karl Ian Sagal March 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Dear Teacher who won't, All those who you list do not work and get paid with my tax dollars. They do not work at a place where I am required by law to send my children. When truancy laws start to include Chuck-E-Cheese, then maybe they should be fingerprinted too. But for now, since my tax dollars pay your salary, and it is perfectly legal for employers to require fingerprinting, then roll up your cuff, and submit.
Alex Finnegan April 08, 2013 at 05:37 PM
I know his is old but it's still intriguing. I see the unlicensed day care could have been avoided, but it was illegal to begin with. The other instances listed are not clear if they occurred recently or if they were in the past and would have been caught via fingerprinting. I do however see a problem with cori checks not being thorough enough to accomplish their purpose, as such they are useless. There is no such thing as "clearing" a person half way. Many people think I am "Team Teacher," but really I'm an objective observer, and I think my opinion on this issue might differ from the Union and teachers on average. I think it's a fair request. Considering the loopholes of cori checks and how they can be exploited, it's a resonable option imo. However DNA for child, teacher etc is out. Anything that comes of the fingerprint test must be totally confidentail and destroyed immediately after the "pass or fail" results come in. We would be doing this to protect the kids and not put teachers on trial for something they did 20+ years ago. So long as it doesn't disqualify them under current cori guidelines a simple record of "pass" should be all that kept. You are asking teachers to give up a little of their privacy, the least you can do is make sure it will remain private by making it impossible to go public without severe legal penalties for a person who "said" something. As with no records kept, that is all you would have left.
Frugal Fannie April 10, 2013 at 08:50 AM
These people have contact with our most precious people. Of Course they should be background checked!

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