-- State lawmakers are proposing legislation they say will help strengthen
Indiana’s system for running background checks for teachers.
The proposals come
after an investigation it conducted with the USA Today Network that found
gaps in the state’s screening process, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Sen. Jim Merritt, who created one of the proposals, said more frequent
screenings would keep administrators informed about their employees.
“Unless you see a
report on television that an employee has gotten in trouble -- that we’ve
seen on a rampant basis -- they don’t have knowledge of situations that are
occurring,” Merritt said. “So I think this constant background check is a
The bills propose
to make background checks more routine and reduce the delay between a
completed screen and an employee’s start date. Current law allows a
three-month window for background checks to be completed, but House Bill
1079 would shorten that window to one month.
Sally Sloan, a
lobbyist for the Indiana Federation of Teachers, told lawmakers that she was
unsure if the one month window was realistic if schools have emergency
vacancies and need to hire someone fast.
“I wonder about the
practicality of that,” Sloan said.
In agreement was
Mike Brown, legislative affairs director for the state schools
superintendent, Jennifer McCormick. Brown said completing background checks
prior to hiring a teacher could cause an “undue burden on our school
He said teachers
are sometimes hired weeks or days before the semester starts. The proposed
bills could keep a newly hired teacher waiting, while a school relies on
Lawmakers will also
discuss whether schools should put policies in place to check a prospective
employee’s references before an offer is extended.
The changes would
affect traditional public, charter and private schools, Merritt said.
Despite the changes being considered by the state, local school districts
would still be in control of the screening process.