Student Background Checks: Understanding the Different Types of Criminal Searches

Student Background Checks: Understanding the Different Types of Criminal Searches
Senior Director of Marketing

Most health sciences colleges and allied health clinical education programs utilize background checks for screening students, but selecting the right type of background check is just as important. For institutions and clinical program coordinators, selecting a background check that meets the requirements of the clinical sites where students will complete their clinical rotations is key. The most important thing to remember is that background checks come in different flavors, so it’s important to understand the difference between the various types of criminal searches that are available.

National, Federal, State level, and County level searches are some of the most commonly used in the screening industry. Here’s an overview of each one and why it may or may not make sense for your student screening program.

National Background Checks (Database, FBI Fingerprinting)

National searches, also known as National Criminal Database Searches, are a term used that can be particularly confusing. First of all, there is no single database that reflects real-time up to date criminal record information across the country. While state legislators are increasingly proposing that FBI and state fingerprint background checks for employment, relying on FBI fingerprint background checks is flawed and risky, according to Roy Maurer, Online Editor/Manager for the q. Background screening experts agree that the FBI fingerprint background check should never be considered a gold standard. Its flaws include: final disposition information missing from approximately half of its records, records that are weeks or months out of date because of irregular update schedule, and lack of protections for applicants.

Federal Background Checks

Federal criminal searches are performed at the Federal Court level. They are often utilized on background checks for candidates being considered for executive level positions, those who may handle sensitive data or financial information. Therefore, this is typically not a criminal search utilized in student background screening programs. Criminal records filed at the federal district courts, however, will not be found if only county or statewide searches are conducted.

Statewide and County Level Checks

Statewide searches are sometimes utilized to supplement County level searches. While the Statewide search might be known to be an equally detailed search in comparison with the counties within that state, there is no enforcement mechanism for ensuring how often counties share criminal record information with their home state. County level searches are, therefore, typically the most up to date and accurate criminal record information publically available. Statewide and county level checks are commonly used for student background screening and provide a higher level of accuracy. Unlike the FBI fingerprint background check, which does not offer any protections to applicants or students, these types of background checks allow the student to dispute any information in their report that could be inaccurate.

By understanding the most common types of criminal searches that are available, you can build an effective, compliant student background screening policy that better meets the needs of your clinical site partners.

Are you evaluating student background screening services? Contact us today to learn how we can help implement your student screening program at no cost to your institution.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit