The Penn State child abuse scandal that has been so prominent in the news recently has highlighted a great need to make sure people who interact with children are responsible and trustworthy. It would be nice to think that high-profile individuals are all good folks with admirable characters, but as has been discovered in the case of Jerry Sandusky, this is not always realistic â€“ and thatâ€™s where criminal background checks come in.
When an adult â€“ particularly a celebrity â€“ takes a special interest in a child, it can be flattering. However, it can also be hard to tell what the personâ€™s motives are. Sometimes, that attention can be the wrong kind of attention. Fortunately, the chances of an adult posing an abuse threat to children can be vastly reduced by performing criminal background checks on all people who work with kids.
As part of the Sandusky fallout, the State of Pennsylvania has enacted a law that mandates exactly that: Criminal background checks will now be performed on everyone who works in public, private and vocational schools in that state. These criminal background checks will include:
- State criminal background check.
- Department of Public Welfare clearance.
- Report of federal criminal history verified by fingerprints.
The Pennsylvania law is expected to impact employers and employees alike. It is retroactive and will potentially reveal some convictions in the records of employees who have in some cases worked at schools for many years. Past offenses such as DUI convictions will preclude employment in schools for three years after sentencing.
Conducting criminal background checks all school employees will take time, cost money and cause disruption for both the institutions and their staff members. But it is so important that parents and communities know their children are safe when they drop them off at school. Criminal background checks are a small price to pay for peace of mind.