Here’s What Campus Employee Background Checks Should Include

Adopting these 12 employee screening best practices will help protect students, patients, staff members and visitors, and prevent unnecessary litigation.

Here’s What Campus Employee Background Checks Should Include

If the screening process is poorly designed, districts, campuses, institutions or organizations could face litigation.

Once again, I’ve learned of two more school districts that have serious flaws when it comes to screening their employees. Union County Public Schools and Cabarrus County Schools – both in North Carolina – don’t fingerprint their staff members during their background checks. In fact, North Carolina as a whole doesn’t have a policy on school employee fingerprinting. The state leaves it up to each district to create its own policy.

And lest you think I’m picking on North Carolina, there are plenty of other districts in our nation with problematic background check policies and procedures.

For example, last fall, CS reported that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) barred 266 employees from coming back to work because they had a history of violence, sexual misconduct or dangerous criminal activity. More than one in four of the employees who were flagged were teachers. (CPS was prompted to redo its background checks last summer after the Chicago Tribune found some district employees who had abused students also had arrest records.)

Considering the vulnerability of the students and patients campus security professionals are tasked with protecting, nowhere is employee screening more important than in the fields of education and healthcare.

The benefits of a good background check program are numerous. A good process can and should:

  • Flag criminal histories and arrest records
  • Uncover lies or misleading information on resumes, such as phony college degrees and professional certifications, previous employment, titles and responsibilities
  • Verify employment eligibility, which is required by federal law
  • Identify applicants who are registered sex offenders

Additionally, in-depth credit checks can identify the financial issues of applicants being considered for money handling or fundraising positions. Also, vehicle accident histories can identify at-risk individuals applying to become school bus drivers or operators of other employment-related vehicles and machinery. Depending on the position being filled, other supplemental screening might also be necessary.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the Union County, Cabarrus County and CPS examples previously mentioned, not all background check programs are created equal. Even if a program does require fingerprinting, there is still a good chance that state police and FBI criminal history checks won’t uncover every felony conviction. That’s because not all local agencies submit their conviction records to the state.

Furthermore, if the screening process is poorly designed, the district, campus, institution or organization could face litigation.

It’s imperative that campuses, districts and healthcare organizations use a reputable service to conduct employee screenings. Some best practices for conducting effective background checks include:

  1. Establishing a standard background screening policy
  2. Ensuring policies and procedures abide by state and federal laws, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  3. Collecting fingerprints of all applicants and current employees
  4. Requiring all applicants to provide complete, accurate and consistent data
  5. Checking all national, state and local criminal databases, including the sex offender database
  6. Verifying education, credentials and employment
  7. Ordering motor vehicle reports
  8. Conducting international background checks
  9. Screening vendors, contractors, volunteers and temporary employees
  10. Reassessing your background check systems and policies regularly
  11. Conducting regular, periodic screenings of current employees
  12. Consider drug testing

Although no program is perfect, whether your campus uses an outside service provider or creates its own program, these best practices will ensure your organization is doing all that it can to employ staff members who won’t pose a danger to students, patients, other staff members and visitors.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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One response to “Here’s What Campus Employee Background Checks Should Include”

  1. Joe says:

    I’m surprised to find the suggestion that institutions “consider drug testing.” I would think that mandatory drug testing, and frequent random followup testing, would be an obvious ‘must do.’ Aside from impairment in judgement and ability to do physical tasks, even simple ones like walking down stairs, use of drugs requires that the user commit a crime each time they use, buy and posses the drugs. It means they are in continuing contact with other criminals. They are vulnerable to black mail. It often means they commit other, and continuing, crimes to support their drug use. They can be providing drugs to other employees, and even worse, students. Other suggestions can impact an institutions vulnerability to litigation but drug testing goes some way to providing safety and security to the institution’s patrons along with insulating it against litigation. And it’s cost effective.

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