July 19, 2011 • Vol. XXXV • No. 3
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NJDOE Issues Background Check Procedures

Update: On August 11, the New Jersey Department of Education issued an updated bulletin about the criminal history background checks that are now required of all school board members and charter school trustees.

According to the Department, only 302 school board members and charter school trustees had registered for the background checks at the time the memo was written.

NJSBA has posted the department’s August 11 memo online.

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The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) on July 14 issued a memo explaining procedures that school board members must follow to comply with the new criminal history background check law.  NJSBA urges school board members to schedule an appointment for fingerprinting as soon as possible.

Under the law, signed on May 26, all current and future school board members or members of a board of trustees of a charter school must undergo a criminal history record check.  Board members or charter school trustees who have been convicted of certain crimes will be disqualified from service on a board.
 
Registration Procedure School districts and charter schools must first provide board members with a form, the MorphoTrak Universal Form version 4.0, that contains information to be used in registering.  Board members should then proceed to register online for an appointment for fingerprinting.
 
To register, board members must visit the Department of Education web page devoted to criminal history review, and select “ePayment Criminal History Record Check.” A member next must select “New Administrative Fee Request,” and then click on the first option, “All Job Positions, except School Bus Drivers and Bus Aides, for Public Schools, Private Schools for Children with Disabilities and Charter Schools.” That link will take board members to a registration page. On that page, under “Job Category,” choose the “Board Member/Trustee” option.  After completing the online form and submitting the $70.25 registration fee, the board member can schedule an appointment for LiveScan fingerprinting.

The typical waiting period for an appointment under the LiveScan fingerprinting process is seven to 14 days, according to the NJDOE. The process itself involves having a fingerprint digitally scanned. That scan is sent to the New Jersey State Police and to the federal government.  Board members who have been convicted of a disqualifying offense would be notified of the specific infraction that would prevent them from serving on the board. The district’s board secretary and chief school administrator would simply be notified that a particular board member is not qualified to serve, although the specific offense would not be provided to the school administrators.

Previous Background Checks  Some board members may have undergone criminal background checks for employment in other school districts.  The state has retained the fingerprints of such individuals whose background checks were approved after Feb. 21, 2003.  These board members should select the option “Archive Application Request” when applying for the criminal history checks.

Timelines  Under the law, the background checks were originally required within 30 days of the May 26 effective date of the bill.  However, that timeline was put on hold by the education department while it awaited authorization to access the federal criminal history record database.

The NJDOE’s Criminal History Review Unit is now urging board members to schedule an appointment for fingerprinting at their earliest convenience, but has not specified a deadline. 

Reimbursing Board Members for Fee  The $70.25 cost of fingerprinting is the responsibility of the school board member, but unexpended campaign funds may be used for this purpose.  In addition, the law allows local boards of education or charter schools to reimburse individuals for these costs.

NJSBA successfully advocated for an amendment to the legislation that allows boards to reimburse members for the cost of the criminal history checks.  The Association has developed a sample resolution for use by school boards that want to demonstrate their intent to have the school district reimburse board members for the cost of the criminal history 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.

 

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