DE House Leader: Not Bad Idea To Reconsider Background Check Bil - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

DE House Leader: Not Bad Idea To Reconsider Background Check Bill

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DOVER, Del. - Concern continues to escalate over criminal background checks at Delaware schools.

This after four recent alleged sexual assaults were reported involving teachers and students.

Hiring new teachers is not a problem for Woodbridge School District.

But state law allows school districts to hire first, check later.

Superintendent Heath Chasanov said the district will make an offer of employment before the background check in on.  It's board approved, he says, but it is contingent on a completed check.

In the past year, four teachers stand accused of sexually assaulting students. The state began looking into changes before more allegations surfaced last month. In January, Gov. Jack Markell formed a task force, which is currently discussing a possible consolidated registry for criminal, child protection, sex offender and adult abuse.

House Minority Leader Danny Short co-sponsored a bill that would have stopped hiring before checks were completed.

"Having reviewed with what's occurred over the last year, it's probably not a bad idea to reconsider [HB 292 from 2012]," said Short.

But would that bill speed up the process?

According to Sgt. Paul Shavack of Delaware State Police, the turnaround time is takes two to four weeks, but has taken upwards of six weeks for their current system.

Shavack provided 47 ABC the following information:

An individual who requires a background/criminal history check has it scheduled and completed in person at one of our SBI facilities. They are required to provide photo ID and any forms that an agency requires to be completed.

The processing of the individuals fingerprints is accomplished which is compared to the database for positive identification and processing of any criminal background information. Technicians then review this information for completeness and accuracy, with the reviewed and completed record then forwarded to the appropriate requestor.

By statute, school districts are required to have this accomplished through the SBI.

The typical turnaround time on a State/Federal criminal history check is 2-4 weeks depending on current backlog, volume, and staffing.

DSP SBI completes over 48,000 criminal history checks annually.  With the current staffing levels that we have, this is the best turnaround time that we can provide.

There is not a particular month or time of the year that is busier than another.  We have observed a higher volume of checks July-September, in large part due to school bus drivers, teachers, teachers' aides, etc.  Our turnaround time can creep up to 4-6 week range during this time period.  The passage of new legislative initiatives as related to criminal backgrounds that are required, may result is a spike in requests, but that can happen any time during the calendar year.

Technological advances in electronic submissions and dissemination of criminal history products would greatly decrease the turnaround time for criminal background checks.  We are currently visiting a few of those options for project implementation. 

Even with the advances in technology, there will always be the human element involved in the criminal history review, so increased staffing levels would positively impact the efficiency also.

"If it's a four-to-six week time frame, maybe [every school district has to consider] a substitute teacher or someone in that capacity that fills in if it is a teaching position," said Short. "Not rushing to judgment on some of these hires and waiting for the check might be better."

"The best type of scenario would be to speed up that process," said Chasanov.

Compare one state to the next, an HR supervisor for Caroline County Public Schools says they are doing their own background checks in house, taking them on average 48 hours, if not quicker, to complete. This includes fingering applicants and processing both Maryland and the FBI database.

The Delaware Criminal Background and Child Protection Registry Checks Task Force is expected to submit its recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by the end of the year.

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