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Archive for Tuesday, September 17, 2013

State board says all teachers should be fingerprinted

September 17, 2013

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— The Kansas State Board of Education is proposing that teachers and administrators who are currently licensed should undergo fingerprint and background checks when they renew their licenses so their names can be checked against criminal databases.

But the board did not propose asking the legislature to strengthen an existing law that requires local prosecutors to report all cases in their jurisdiction involving crimes that can disqualify someone from holding an educator license.

That was what board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, first suggested last month after learning that only 14 of the state's 105 county prosecutors had filed such a report with the department in the past two years.

At that time, the board acted to revoke licenses, or not issue new licenses, to six educators who'd been convicted of disqualifying crimes, including four who'd engaged in unlawful sexual activity with students.

But today, Willard said having the state board taking regulatory action on its own, instead of seeking legislative action, would be more effective.

"Getting legislation put in effect, in my view, would be more difficult than doing it this way, and we have the authority to do it," Willard said after the vote.

The state board rejected a similar proposal in 2011 amid opposition from the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

Kansas has been requiring new teachers to be fingerprinted since 2002, but so far the rule has never applied to those who became licensed before then. State officials say roughly 35,000 teachers and administrators are currently practicing in Kansas who have never undergone a fingerprint check through the Department of Education.

"Unless they voluntarily disclose to us what they've been convicted of, we never know," Scott Gordon, an attorney for the department, said. "Have there been cases where a person has reapplied over and over for a license and we didn't know about certain convictions? Yes. That's a real thing."

Currently, new teachers submit fingerprints and pay a $50 fee when they apply for their initial license. They also pay an additional fee each time they get their license renewed for a service called "Rap Back," which automatically notifies the education agency when someone who has submitted fingerprints through them is arrested or charged with a crime.

The proposed new regulation would bring veteran teachers into that program. Applicants only have to submit one set of fingerprints, and pay the $50 fee only once, but they continue to pay what amounts to $3 per year to pay for the department's participation in Rap Back.

In addition to the fingerprint requirement, the board also endorsed:

• Developing an electronic form that can be sent to prosecutors each month, requesting monthly report on felony arrests, convictions, or criminal diversion agreements in their jurisdiction so the names of those people can be cross checked against the database of licensed educators.

• Asking the Kansas Supreme Court's education liaison to include information about the reporting requirement in their meetings with local prosecutors.

• Asking the attorney general, as it did in 2011, to send letters again to all local prosecutors, calling their attention to the reporting requirement.

• And asking for assistance from the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association in reminding prosecutors of the requirement.

The board will have to vote on the new rule at least two more times before it takes effect: once to publish a public notice of the official language, submit it for review by the attorney general's office and to schedule a public hearing; and again to adopt the final regulation.

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Contact Journal-World education reporter Elliot Hughes: ehughes@ljworld.com

Comments

Currahee 1 year, 3 months ago

How about the board members elect to undergo similar criminal checks too.

ksscribbler 1 year, 3 months ago

Gawd, what kind of grade school horror did Brother Willard go through?

parrothead8 1 year, 3 months ago

"Unless they voluntarily disclose to us what they've been convicted of, we never know," Scott Gordon, an attorney for the department, said. "Have there been cases where a person has reapplied over and over for a license and we didn't know about certain convictions? Yes. That's a real thing."

Um, they're called background checks. Lots of businesses do them before they hire people, and you don't need fingerprints to run them.

local_support 1 year, 3 months ago

What's criminal is how little we pay these teachers.

Cheryl Nelsen 1 year, 3 months ago

Why just teachers? Why not fingerprint any occupation that brings children and adults together?

chootspa 1 year, 3 months ago

I wonder who makes the most money off of this background check system. If it's a government-run criminal justice system, and a government-run school system, even if it's across different states, shouldn't there be an easy mechanism to run background checks without having to charge teachers every time they renew their license?

tomatogrower 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm sure they will privatize this so one of Brownback's big contributors can make a bundle. Why don't the prosecutors do their job and report to the Board when a teacher is charged with a crime. It's not like there are hundreds and thousands of teachers gone wild.

chootspa 1 year, 3 months ago

It sounds from the article that it's already privatized. That new teachers have to pay for some sort of background check and service that notifies the school board.

Lisa Medsker 1 year, 3 months ago

Wait, WHAT??? Teachers don't have to be fingerprinted in Kansas?? Whoa. Weird. I had to in Utah as a para, as did all School District staff, and had to again in Idaho as a substitute teacher. This was in 1993, and in 2001. I thought this was standard practice, as well as a full FBI investigation.

In Kansas, I have had to do two background checks in the last year. One for Nursing School, and one for my license. That, I do not understand, because both are KBI.

My fingerprints are another story. Once to get a Paramedic license in UT, once to work as a para, once to be hired with a security company as a Tactical Medic, once to work as a JPO, then again to join the Army. Then, again, to get my Security Clearance, then again for the substitute gig, and again, later, to license as a Paramedic in MO. (That was twice, actually. The EMT Basic renewal required them, too.) Then, just last week for my Nursing License. Three of these were via electronic scan, which supposedly is cross-referenced with the FBI database. Do these people REALLY think you can actually change your fingerprints?

I think Chootspa is right. Somebody, somewhere, is making a buck or three off of this.

tomatogrower 1 year, 3 months ago

Teachers are fingerprinted when they first get their license. Read the whole article.

Lisa Medsker 1 year, 3 months ago

"Kansas has been requiring new teachers to be fingerprinted since 2002, but so far the rule has never applied to those who became licensed before then. State officials say roughly 35,000 teachers and administrators are currently practicing in Kansas who have never undergone a fingerprint check through the Department of Education."
Okay. Apparently, though, some are slipping through the cracks, so to speak. With having to do it to apply for a license, renew a license, as well as to actually be hired, how is this possible? The educators prior to 2002 had apparently, somehow, been missed. Have they not had to do any license renewal? It seems like they fingerprint everyone for everything, anymore. Not just teaching jobs. If you have been fingerprinted previously for anything, shouldn't that be accessible in the database via SSN? That's why I think it looks like someone's getting a kickback, cleverly disguised as micromanagement or bureaucratic red tape.

Tammy Copp-Barta 1 year, 3 months ago

Lawrence fingerprints all their teachers.

tomatogrower 1 year, 3 months ago

Ah, so much for the Republicans "smaller government". This is like saying you are guilty until proven innocent. Many teachers get licensed (1st time fingerprinted), then find a job. They might leave to get paid better or to move, but many stay in the same job for years. So why fingerprint someone who has taught in the same district for 10 years? Even in a big city, do you not think that the fellow teachers and administration wouldn't know if a teacher had been arrested? It would be all over the school. You can be sure the students would know. The teacher would be fired. So you have prosecutors who don't bother to report the teachers, but do you really think the school keeps them on? And if a prosecutor fails to follow the law and report to the State Board of Ed, then punish him/her. I would like to look into the private company who has the contract to do this. What do you want to bet they are large contributors to Brownback and company.

JGDieker 1 year, 3 months ago

Here's the thing, the article says that teachers only get finger printed once. This has been required of new teachers since 2002. The only change is that now teachers who were licensed before 2002 will be required to be fingerprinted as well. Once. Currently if a teacher was licensed before 2002 they could have a horrible criminal record including crimes against children, and unless they disclosed it on their application, the department of education has no way of knowing. I think this is a pretty reasonable change and protects kids.

tomatogrower 1 year, 3 months ago

But if they have been teaching in the same district for 10 years, the community would already know about these crimes. But now every 5 years, whether or not they go to a different district they have to pay to be fingerprinted. Why not finger print everyone once, then fingerprint them if they go to a different district. It wouldn't make as much money for this company, but it sure would save teachers money.

JGDieker 1 year, 3 months ago

From what I understand, tomatogrower, that is precisely what has been proposed by the board. The only change from the previous policy is that a teacher who was licensed before fingerprinting became required will have to go ahead and get fingerprinted at their next renewal. They'll only have to do it the once. Just like everyone.

Liberty275 1 year, 3 months ago

How about this?

You get to fingerprint them one time, when they are hired. After that, one time per year you furnish the social security numbers of teachers to state law enforcement and they query the database of crimes from the previous year with the SSNs. Outside of that, leave them alone if you don't have at least reasonable suspicion.

You can fingerprint the teachers from before 2002, but you do it on the state's (aka my) dime and while the teacher is "on the clock".

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