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Should National Tracking System and Background Checks Be Mandated Following USA Today Investigation?

Should National Tracking System and Background Checks Be Mandated Following USA Today Investigation?

A recent USA Today investigation revealed a shocking number of disciplined teachers are crossing state lines to find new work in schools- some despite being disciplined for offenses of sexual and/or violent natures.

In the wake of the investigation, The Seventy-Four takes a look at all the times over the past twenty years that Congress has proposed legislation to set a standard for a national tracking system and background checks on teachers.

Unlike other countries, the United States does not yet federally regulate criminal history data of America’s teachers, which the USA Today investigation has pointed out has led to many disciplined teachers finding work in schools again.

While many are calling for a change, The Seventy-Four notes that Congress has on many occasions tried- and failed- to do exactly that.

"Over 20-plus years, Congress has several times considered, and repeatedly failed to pass, bills that would institute any kind of comprehensive national tracking system, requirements for background checks or bans on the re-employment of people convicted of crimes against children.”

The Seventy-Four looks at several failed efforts to better protect children in schools, such as the School Safety Enhancement Act of 1999 and 2003’s School Safely Acquiring Faculty Excellence Act.

In 2004, the Education Department commissioned a report on sexual abuse committed by educators that claimed " millions of children were likely affected each year. Author Carol Shakeshaft made several recommendations, including background checks with fingerprinting.”

The report was deemed alarmist.

Cue numerous other failures in the following years, including the repeated failure to pass the promising Protecting Students from Violent and Sexual Predators Act, which would require fingerprints and background checks for school employees.

Most recently, many legislators hoped the Every Student Succeeds Act would mandate similar safety provisions once and for all.

The ESSA, however, only included provisions that would prevent teachers from being accomplices to aiding their peers to cover up abuse, a phenomenon The Seventy-Four says is called “passing-the-trash:”

"The measure included a 'sense of Congress' section that said Congress found there are 'significant anecdotal reports’ that schools and districts sometimes fail to report allegations of sexual misconduct, that those schools and districts will keep the allegations private if the employee agrees to leave, and the practice of withholding that information 'can facilitate the exposure of other students in other jurisdictions to sexual misconduct.’”

Background checks and bans on employment of people committing specific offenses did not make the cut.

Should they? Weigh-in by taking our poll below. Should legislation that would mandate a national tracking system and background checks for teachers be passed?

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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