Background checks near completion

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The state Department of Education is completing fingerprinting and background checks on all personnel in Shelby County and other school systems in the state who have unsupervised access to students.

School Superintendent Evan Major said the action is being conducted in compliance with two state laws.

He also said that

except for a few who were missed due to absence, the operation in Shelby County is almost complete.

Major said the purpose of the background checks, which are being conducted by checking fingerprints &uot;is to make sure we do not get pedophiles or people who do not need to be around children.&uot;

Major said there have been no dismissals as a result of the background checks to date in the Shelby County School System.

He said some driving under the influence and disturbing the peace reports have come back but nothing &uot;significant&uot; enough to dismiss a teacher.

While Major said some would argue that such findings are significant, he explained that the charges are &uot;not something the state superintendent would take a (teaching) certificate away for.&uot;

Several years ago, Major said, a state law was passed that all new school personnel with unsupervised access to students had to be fingerprinted and background-checked.

He said that program has been implemented since then.

However, Major said, about a year and a half ago, another state law was passed that all employees with unsupervised access to students had to be background-checked and fingerprinted &uot;retroactively,&uot; including himself.

&uot;I was first in line,&uot; Major said. The school superintendent said he wanted to serve as an example.

Major said the reason the fingerprinting operation is taking so long is that the state has teams in the field doing the work with electronic devices as opposed to the old ink pad-type of fingerprinting.

He said the statewide operation began with the larger school systems such as Mobile and Baldwin counties first.

He also said that when budget cuts were first announced, it was reported that the fingerprinting would be put on hold.

However, he said, fingerprinting was quickly resumed, and the Shelby County operation is nearly complete.

According to Major, the state foots the bill for current employee background checks.

However, he said, applicants must pay a $49 fee.

Major said at this point the Shelby County School system may not have pursued an applicant or two as a result of the background findings