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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.

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.

Southender January 13, 2013 at 01:05 AM
I see no reason why not. So many out of State crimes may not show up here in Massachusetts. It isn't a bad idea to check the national data base. Children have to be protected.
SM_bos January 13, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Agree we should take reasonable steps to protect kids but knee jerk laws arent always the best answer. One question; would any of the awful examples of child abuse above have been prevented by these precautions? Are there any examples anywhere, ever? or are we just addin one more step? One more bureaucracy? One more cost without ANY benefit?
MoonBeamWatcher January 14, 2013 at 03:41 AM
Not for NOTHING . . . if one child molester doesn't apply for work with our national treasures and JUST ONE CHILD is spared the life long misery of victimization the cost is well justified! Impossible to measure assaults, rapes not committed by this fingerprint requirement!
Paul M January 19, 2013 at 09:12 PM
I don't see why not. If you have nothing to hide what is the problem
robert jones April 07, 2013 at 04:20 AM
As I understand the class 1 sex offender classification in Mass., the police don't have the right to diseminate that information to the public as to an individuals status as level 1, so a sex offender registry check wouldn't show any record--however, as I expect level one commited a crime, it should show on criminal check. Or does it?

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