3 Faculty and Staff Background Check Best Practices for Colleges and Universities
Background check practices in the education industry have received a fair amount of attention in recent years. While health sciences programs conduct background checks on students entering clinical rotations, it’s also important to have a background check program in place for faculty and staff. Whether you plan on updating your institution’s background check policy or are starting from scratch, here are a few items to consider when revising your policy. Remember that these are general industry best practices and that it is always recommended that you consult with legal counsel before moving forward with your policy.
Comply with Federal and State Regulations
Some stage legislators are calling for stronger background check policies on faculty and staff at universities. Last October, the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives approved House Bill 435, which requires “state police-run background checks for any criminal activity, fingerprint runs through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s system, as well as searching the state’s child protective services records to verify whether or not the employee or applicant has ever been accused of child abuse.” In addition to these requirements, colleges are also required to keep copies of all background check records, reports The Hawk, the student news organization at Saint Joseph’s University. Failing to keep records of the background checks can result in a third-degree misdemeanor charge against the institution.
While not every state may have requirements like the recent Pennsylvania background check law, having an effective background check program can help education institutions mitigate risk and protect their students and staff from harm. The latest studies show that most employers use background checks for hiring purposes and some conduct background checks post-hire. Colleges and universities, therefore, should consider establishing a pre-employment background check program for faculty and staff, as it is a common practice across all industries.
Beware of the FBI’s Inaccurate Database
Although some state legislation requires the FBI’s fingerprint background check, employers should use caution when utilizing this type of search, which should never be considered a gold standard by any means. The FBI’s database was never intended to produce employment background checks, and a U.S. Attorney General report states that “final disposition information for approximately 50 percent of its records” is missing. An effective and accurate background check program should include primary source searches, which means searching at the county and state level.
Be Mindful of How You Enforce Your Background Check Policy
Once you have a policy in place, it’s important to have the proper processes in place to ensure it is enforced appropriately. A background check policy is only as effective as its implementation, and not following the proper protocol can have serious consequences for your institution. According to a December 2014 article in the New Haven Register, Southern Connecticut State University was allowed to teach for several weeks last fall before the institution’s completion of a mandated background check. The background showed that William Friskey was accused of an illegal sexual relationship with a high school student. According to the news report, Friskey is due to be sentenced on February 25. In addition to the mandatory prison sentence of nine months, he will be on probation for 15 years and have to register as a sex offender.
By keeping these points in mind, your institution can establish an effective and compliant pre-employment background check program. Once you have a program in place, it’s important to ensure it is enforced in order to keep your students and staff safe from harm.
Are you currently evaluating background screening providers? Contact us today to learn how PreCheck can help you implement your institution’s pre-employment background screening program.