Hundreds of educators within Hancock County will be subject to a background report within 5 years. This action is as a result of a state law recently adopted (House Enrolled Act 1079) and school districts are now mulling over how the background report costs will be met. The act encompasses every school employee (support staff, teachers and admin) and requires a criminal background check on a five year cycle. The background report to be an expansive check. The act also imposes tighter restrictions on new applicants. The revised requirement a background report along with a reference to the Child Protection Index, a registry held by the State detailing individuals accused of child abuse.

A criminal background check must now be be completed within thirty days and within sixty days for the CPI (child protection index) check. This new law was signed in April by Gov. Eric Holcomb and became effective as at July 1st. No funding allocation has been set aside to cover background report costs (by the State) estimated at $20 per employee. School districts have been left to decide whether tax payers or teachers will meet the costs. Support for the bill ensures State schools provide a safe environment for every student. Many schools previously had required staff a background report when employees were initially hired. How the law will be enforced is still being considered by local schools.

Staff, teachers and coaches (Southern Hancock Schools ) who have had no background report within the preceding 5 years will bear responsibility for the cost. Those employees across the county will have their costs met by Eastern Hancock Schools who require them. Around 100 employees are without a background report in the past 5 years. The law allows schools a period of up to 5 years to bring staff up to date. Through till 2021 the institution will meet the costs for 20% of employees for a period of 5 years in order to bring every member of staff up to date. The cost expected to be around $400 ($20 per employee).

Covering costs of the background report for the larger districts will be significantly more. School representatives will await teacher contract negotiations in September before committing to any cost. However it is likely the district will bear the cost. Teacher head count is around 300 giving an estimated bill of $6,000. A five year timeline is already under way ensuring staff are subject to a background report at the revised periods.

Some employees have been teaching for some 20 years without having to undergo a new criminal history background check. Greenfield Central has no issues with existing staff committing misdemeanours and/or crimes while being employed.

In a similar move in Northvale, NJ all borough volunteers and employees may well be subject to background checks. The initiative is being advocated by the police chief. Currently the requirement under borough code requires volunteers along with recreation and sports employees (18 and over) working with minors to have a criminal history background check report via the State police. The borough, however, would like the net cast wider. What has been emphasised is that the background report should not be seen as discriminatory but should be fair to all.

The background report would not be conducted by the department (police). In line with state law an ordinance can be created that requires criminal background checks for potential and current volunteers or employees. An employee will be assigned by the town to oversee the procedure and will be able to exchange data on fingerprints. The employee will also liaise with the State Bureau of Identification and the FBI. It has also been put forward that a background report should be conducted every year. The cost of finger printing was also raised.

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