Teachers face background checks

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Time is running out to get South-Western City School District employees checked for a criminal background.

Assistant Superintendent of Personnel, Gary Smetzer, reported to the board of education, at the March 31 work session, that they were working hard to get it done.

House Bill 190 was signed into effect on Nov. 14, 2007. It requires all licensed and non-licensed school employees to complete background checks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII). Two-year and five-year licensed educators will have to complete both background checks when they renew their license. Professional certificate holders also must have the checks completed by Sept. 5.

Smetzer said some of the new school employees have already gone through this process but older employees have not.

“If you came to the district in 1993, you’ve likely never been fingerprinted before,” Smetzer noted. “Now it has to be done by Sept. 5”

Smetzer said the district may fingerprint 1,800 to 2,000 employees by September.

The results of the background and fingerprint test are given to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

The FBI check looks for criminal activity nationwide. Some question why the BCII check is needed when the FBI check should cover the bases. According to the ODE, FBI background checks may not include detailed state information that is provided by the BCII check due to different reporting procedures.

The background check information is valid for one year. The BCII check is $22 and the FBI check is $24, paid for by the individual.

Smetzer said district officials have already asked employees to schedule their appointments.

“We would like to have everyone finished by the end of July,” he said. “It takes a while to get the results back.”

Board members and volunteers are not required to have background checks though district officials say they will continue to check athletic volunteers as they have done in the past.

District Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said there are volunteers that are around children but most of them are supervised.

“What concerns me is vendors,” said Wise. “If we bring in someone to work on the septic system or the sewer, people who are around kids, we might want to ask them to go through the (background check) process.”

Smetzer also reported that there have been new revisions to House Bill 79, which requires all school districts to report teacher misconduct to the ODE. He explained that now the district will have to report any termination of an employee and any crime.

“The district has been good about reporting inappropriate behavior,” said Smetzer. “Now we just have report terminations.”

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