Delaware, schools reconsidering background check policy after alleged assaults

Delaware School Bill ImageAfter four students in the Woodbridge School District came forward with allegations that they’d been sexually assaulted by their teachers, Woodbridge School District and the Delaware House of Representatives are reconsidering their current background screening legislation and policies. Currently, the state allows new teachers to begin working before all background checks have been completed, a decision that was upheld by the Woodbridge School Board. These are not the first allegations of assault; within the past 12 months, four other Delaware teachers had been accused of sexual assault as well. All new teachers are required to be fingerprinted and screened through the Delaware State Police, according to Sgt. Paul Shavack, though Sgt. Shavack says that completing the screening process usually takes between two and four weeks, though it can exceed six weeks, “depending on current backlogs, volume and staffing.” In the meantime, teachers are allowed to begin work on good faith, though they are expected to pass all screening processes in order to retain their positions. House Minority Leader Danny Short first introduced a bill in 2012 as a means of ensuring that all criminal record checks would be completed prior to new teachers beginning work in public schools, and believes it would be a good idea to revisit the proposed legislation. Delaware House Bill 292 was reported “out for committee” in June 2012. In January, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed an executive order creating a task force to review the state’s child safety laws and policies, and just last month, he signed legislation preventing public-sector employers from asking candidates about felony records until after the first interview. Schools were presumably exempt from this new law, as were police stations and other state offices in which background checks are mandated.]]>

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