Fingerprints and background checks – they’re on the horizon for all teachers in Kansas – but there are several potential outcomes.
Two efforts – one shared goal. One is a bill through the Kansas Senate, SB 335. The other, a regulation change through the Kansas State Department of Education.
They would both require 35,000 Kansas teachers to submit fingerprints through the Department of Education. Those teachers haven’t done so because they started teaching before it was required in 2002.
“It’s prudent for us to know the background of the people that are with our children,” says Sen. Greg Smith, who created SB 335.
It costs about $50 to submit fingerprints. They’ll be put into a database at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation called RAP bank. That would notify the department within a week or so after any criminal activity. Right now, the department has to wait for a conviction to take action.
“So you’re talking about from the time that the individual was actually arrested to the time they are convicted, they could still have been in the classroom for a couple of years,” says Denise Kahler, Communications Director for the Kansas State Department of Education.
But there are differences between these two efforts. The regulation only requires those who have not submitted fingerprints to do so when they renew their licenses.
“Unless the individual were to allow their license to expire and have to apply for a new one, they would not have to continue to submit new fingerprints,” Kahler says.
The bill, however, requires every Kansas teacher submit new fingerprints each time they renew their license, typically every five years.
“People’s fingerprints can change due to injury, due to amputation, something like that, a fingerprint can change,” Smith says, “And there are people that try to change their fingerprints, usually they’re criminals, but it has been done.”
The Kansas State Board of Education plans to vote on its regulation change next month. Monday afternoon the education committee plans to work on SB 335. Smith wants to add language that includes all employees to undergo background checks, not just teachers. Right now in Kansas, most school districts have their own policies that enforce background checks on all employees, but not all.