Indiana Calls for Strengthening Teacher Background Checks

Indiana Calls for Strengthening Teacher Background Checks
Marketing Specialist

Background check practices in schools have received a fair amount of attention in the last few years. Indiana, for example, is among the 12 states and the District of Columbia to recently receive an F for the screening of their teachers, according to an investigation by USA Today with IndyStar. The investigation uncovered flaws in Indiana’s process to screen teachers because it allowed sexual predators and problematic teachers into their educational facilities. Also, the state’s inconsistent practices in reporting to NASDTEC, a national clearinghouse of teacher discipline cases, allowed teachers to easily move unnoticed from one state to another despite their documented misconduct.

Conducting Background Checks

Although Indiana’s state law requires teachers, substitutes and other school personnel to submit to a background check, schools aren’t required to complete a thorough background check until after he or she has been in the classroom for three months—or before the report has even been completed. When prospective teachers in Indiana apply for a license, they must complete a form and list any past convictions—felonies and misdemeanors—under penalty of perjury, says Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman. Licensed teachers are then able to apply for a position at a school district in the state. There is a three-month period which they can teach, even if the background check isn’t finished, but that’s usually up to the discretion of each district, Altman says.

Making hiring decisions before receiving a full background check report can put your organization at considerable risk. Not only is your due diligence critical to protecting your students and faculty, it’s an imperative in safeguarding your organization’s reputation and longstanding values.

Reporting Misconduct Information

As noted above, NASDTEC is a privately run central database that strives to maintain a list of every state’s disciplinary actions against certified or licensed teachers. Indiana Department of Education officials claim they immediately report teachers whose license have been suspended or revoked to the NASDTEC database; but an analysis of Department of Education records reveals that the agency has failed to report 30 percent of those cases, particularly those that involved sexual misconduct allegations.

For example, Corey Greenwood, a former Indianapolis Public Schools administrator, whose teaching license was revoked in 2014—after he admitted to having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student—was unreported, presenting him the opportunity to apply for a position at another school without any evidence of misconduct.

The issue lies with no federal mandate to report to NASDTEC, or a lack of nationwide collection data on teachers who abuse students, says Terri Miller, President of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation. “The database is only as good as the information that goes into it – and again, it’s all voluntary.”

Moreover, USA Today’s article mentions including FBI fingerprint background checks as a best practice, but as we’ve discussed in the past it should never be considered a “gold standard” in employment screening. A federal database with fingerprint records might seem like a highly accurate criminal search, but there are many flaws with this type of background check: incomplete and inaccurate records and out-of-date information. Like the NASDTEC database, it’s only as good as the information that goes into it. There is no single national database containing complete and up-to-date records cataloging criminal history. If your healthcare organization currently conducts fingerprint background checks, you’re likely doing so because of a legal requirement. So before you decide to rely solely on the FBI fingerprint check system, consider its six misconceptions.                            

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure applicants have been subjected to a full background check.
  • Confirm that their report has been reviewed and approved by HR and hiring managers before permitting them into your classrooms.
  • FBI fingerprint background checks should not be considered as a “gold standard” in the employment screening process—as it contains incomplete and inaccurate records and out-of-date information.
  • There is no single national database containing complete and up-to-date records cataloging criminal history.
  • There no federal mandate to report to NASDTEC—so its information is only as good as the information that goes into it.

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