Requiring public school teachers and administrators to be fingerprinted to facilitate background checks is a reasonable way for the state to protect the safety of Kansas students.
It’s understandable that state teacher groups would oppose the policy that the Kansas State Board of Education decided this week to pursue, but the concerns voiced by teachers have to be weighed against the importance of identifying school personnel that might pose a physical or emotional threat to students.
The requirement for fingerprinting and background checks has been in place since 2002 for new educators applying for their initial licenses. The new rules will simply extend that requirement to teachers who had obtained their licenses before 2002. That will affect an estimated 35,000 educators across the state.
Among other things, the Kansas National Education Association objected to the fact that it would cost teachers about $50 to meet the requirement. That’s not a huge amount, but maybe individual school districts could consider sharing the expense. Instead of making teachers take time to schedule and complete the fingerprinting process on their own time, maybe districts could make the process more convenient by bringing technicians to the teachers, perhaps at an in-service event.
The kind of checks that will be required of teachers aren’t much different than those being required by many companies these days, and it’s important, for the sake of our children, that schools be able to check the backgrounds of teachers and administrators.
It’s unfortunate, in a way, that school districts and other employers see a need for this kind of check, but, especially for people who are responsible for children in public schools, the fingerprinting requirement doesn’t seem out of line.