N.J. Education Department grants reprieve to school board members without background checks

The New Jersey Education Department gave a reprieve last week to more than 180 school board members and charter-school trustees who faced the loss of their seats over the lack of criminal background checks.

We recently reported that the law, which went into effect in May, required people responsible for deciding local school policies and budgets to undergo background checks by the end of 2011 or be immediately removed from office. Crimes that would bar someone from serving included murder, robbery, luring a child, assault and Buy Klonopin drug possession or distribution. As 2012 dawned, however, more than 300 board members still hadn’t complied.

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s reprieve allows school board members to complete the fingerprinting requirement by Jan. 27 to be eligible to remain on their respective board if they are cleared through the background check process. Background checks will be required from now on for all school board members and charter trustees. School employees have had to get background checks since a law passed in 1986.

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New Jersey facing incomplete compliance with new trustee screening law

As of last Friday, more than 400 school board and charter school trustee members across the state of New Jersey had yet to comply with the new school trustee screening law that went into effect in May. The law required people responsible for deciding local school policies and budgets undergo background checks by the end of  2011 or be immediately removed from office. Crimes that would bar someone from serving included murder, robbery, luring a child, assault and drug possession or distribution.

According to the state Education Department, 95 percent of the more than 4,700 school board members and 70 percent of charter school trustees in New Jersey had been screened since the law was signed in May. Twelve board members had been barred from serving after completing their background checks.

The new state law is an example of how the laws are changing across the country to make background checks and pre-employment screening more of a mandatory part of the position-filling process, whether someone is elected, hired or volunteers. Likewise, the fact that not everyone is in compliance with it after more than six months is a telling example of how some school districts, employers and others are still resistant to the process.

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