October 15 2014

Burlington Schools Fingerprinting Program Progressing

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington School Department is working to ensure that all of its staff and faculty members are fingerprinted in accordance with state law. 

 

Superintendent Eric Conti gave an update to the School Committee on the fingerprinting process during the Oct. 14 meeting. 

 

“The regulations are just now coming into play,” Conti told the committee. “All of our employees need to be fingerprinted within the next two years.” 

 

Conti was referring to Chapter 459 of the Acts of 2012, “An Act Relative to Background Checks, a law Gov. Deval Patrick signed into low in January, 2013, according to Mass.gov. According to the site, “This new law expands what public, private, and parochial schools, including approved private special education schools and child care facilities, already do in conducting state Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks on all employees at least once every three years. It requires a fingerprint-based state and national criminal record check for all school employees and contractor employees.” 

 

All newly hired school employees, including educators, student teachers, maintenance staff, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers, who work in the schools and may have direct and unmonitored contact with children are now required to complete the new fingerprint-based state and national background check, the law states. Current employees must all be fingerprinted and undergo national background checks before Sept.1, 2016. 

 

Conti said there have been some difficulties with how the new law is unfolding. He said that when aspiring teachers get fingerprinted they can list up to 10 school districts they may apply to and their prints are mailed to those schools. This means the school department is receiving fingerprints of people who have not applied yet, or may never apply, but it must keep the records. 

 

We’re getting fingerprints from people who have applied for a job or are thinking of applying for a job here,” Conti said. “We have to keep them on file and if they apply they can say ‘you have my fingerprints on record’ and we’ll have to find them. We have to keep track of people we don’t even know.” 

 

I was hoping the state would take care of the records but they seem to have passed that responsibility onto us,” Conti added, eliciting some laughs and comments such as “imagine that” from members of the committee. 

 

There was a question of what chaperones will have to do in order to be able to work with students. Conti said that the law requires chaperones and other volunteers to undergo CORI checks but not to be fingerprinted. Local school districts can decide if they wish to make that a requirement and Conti said Burlington has not done so. 

 

“For chaperones we require CORI checks only, not fingerprinting,” he said. “Chaperones are always supervised by members of our staff. And CORIs are free but fingerprints are not. It didn’t make sense to charge people to get fingerprinted to come in and help us out.”

 
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