Teachers fingerprinted for national database
GREENFIELD — Before starting the coming school year, new teachers and staff across Massachusetts will be adding their unique biometric signatures to a new database.
They will be fingerprinted as the result of a new state law, which requires all school and contractor employees to undergo a fingerprint-based state and national criminal record check.
The program is being phased in, so all newly hired school employees in the 2013-2014 school year, including educators, student teachers, maintenance staff, cafeteria workers and bus drivers who work in the schools and may have direct and un-monitored contact with children are now required to complete the checks before the new school term starts this September.
Current employees have three years — until the 2016-2017 school year — to comply.
Volunteers at schools will continue to be required to submit to state criminal records database checks at least once every three years, as currently required by statute, but the decisions to add the submission of fingerprints to that check are to be made locally, by schools or districts.
The law — signed in January 2013 by Gov. Deval Patrick — aligns the state with the rest of the nation. Prior to that, Massachusetts was the only state that was not conducting fingerprint-based state and national criminal history checks of K-12 school employees through the FBI’s national criminal history database.
Before the new law, Massachusetts required all public and private K-12 schools and early education programs and providers to conduct state Criminal Offender Record Information background checks on their employees at least once every three years.
The CORI check, however, includes only an individual’s criminal history for the state and it is not a nationwide criminal history check — and it does not use fingerprints.
Though the new Statewide Applicant Fingerprint Identification Services program was launched in February, many teachers and staff in Franklin County schools have been fingerprinted this summer.
They are traveling to the Hampton Inn in Greenfield, where a private contractor is doing the fingerprint checks. Employees make their own appointments.
While the new law creates more administrative work, many local superintendents see the new regulation as important for protecting students.
“I understand the reason for it. It protects the people we’re responsible for, the kids,” said Superintendent of Union 28 Schools Bob Mahler. “People are fingerprinted for a number of things. It’s not the first profession to be asked to be fingerprinted.”
“I think the state wants to strengthen procedures to keep kids safe in terms of knowing the background of individuals,” said Pioneer Valley Regional School District Superintendent Dayle Doiron.
Frontier Regional School Superintendent Martha Barrett said, “it’s something we have to do. We’re the last state in New England to require this.”
No additional money went to K-12 districts as a result of the law. Instead, teachers and staff will bear the cost — $35 for non-licensed employees and $50 for licensed employees, such as teachers.
For the Union 38 School District, teachers will be reimbursed it they have a receipt according to the union contract, Barrett said.
President of the Greenfield Education Association, Thomas Bevacqua declined to comment.
You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 on Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK