TX Schools Prepare for Tougher Criminal Background Checks

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Starting January 1, 2008 a new law will require fingerprints from most employees. The system is designed to catch criminals working at public schools.

"It's discouraging to look at what happens in society, but it is a matter of safety for kids," Bryan Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Ernie Ritter said. "We have young kids from age three and up. We need to provide them with the safest environment possible."

Most Texas school districts already perform criminal background checks on new employees, but it doesn't catch people using false information and doesn't always include a nationwide check.

The new law requires fingerprints from all teachers, administrators, counselors, librarians and substitute teachers.

"Fingerprints are unique to each individual so a person couldn't assume another identity and use a fingerprint as part of that identification process and be able to pull it off," Bryan Police Department's Public Information Officer Lesley Malinak said.

Janitors, cafeteria workers, and other support staff hired after the first of the year, are also required to have fingerprint background checks. Those hired before, will undergo the old, less comprehensive method.

"There is a law that says that certain people with certain criminal history records cannot work in schools and if that is the case they would lose their job," Ritter said.

In a process that could take up to five days, fingerprints will be submitted to the state and sent to the FBI for a national check. If workers are found to have lied to school officials or have a criminal history, they most likely will be fired.

"I think any precautions that can be taken to ensure the safety of our children is a step in the right direction," Malinak said.