On May 26, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law A-444, which requires school board members and charter school trustees to undergo criminal background history checks and would disqualify board members who have been convicted of certain crimes.
Current school board members will have to undergo a background investigation within 30 days. When new members are elected or appointed to a board, they must undergo a criminal history background check within the first 30 days of being elected or appointed.
Update: NJSBA has been in contact with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) regarding implementation of the criminal background check law. The NJDOE has indicated that they will be sending out guidance through the district superintendent on or about Tuesday, June 7. Until that time, it is recommended that school board members and charter school trustee members not attempt to obtain a background check until the NJDOE has set up the proper protocols necessary to complete the check.
In coming days, NJSBA will produce an FAQ fact-sheet for board members on the criminal background check process.
Who Pays The cost of the background investigation will be the responsibility of the school board member, but unexpended campaign funds may be used for this purpose. The law also allows local boards of education or charter schools to reimburse individuals for these costs.
NJSBA successfully advocated for the change to the bill that allows boards to reimburse members for these costs.
NJSBA has created a sample resolution for school boards that want to demonstrate its intent to reimburse for board-member criminal history background checks.
In addition, the NJSBA Legal & Policy Services Department has developed a sample bylaw that school districts may adopt to memorialize a reimbursement policy for the background checks. It is available upon request from Lisa Deon at (609) 278-5222 or via email.
Board Member Oath Under existing law, a candidate for election to a board of education, when filing a nominating petition, must certify that the candidate is legally qualified to hold that office. Making a false statement in connection with a nominating petition is a crime of the fourth degree.
The new law provides that the oath of office taken by a school board member before assuming office will contain a specific declaration that the member is not disqualified from holding that office due to conviction of one of those crimes or offenses. A member who falsely swears that he or she is not disqualified due to a conviction would be guilty of a fourth-degree crime.
The State Bureau of Identification will immediately inform the state commissioner of education of any new charges filed against any board member who has previously undergone a background investigation.