Now that the dust has settled in New Jersey’s undertaking to have all school board members undergo criminal background checks, the state Department of Education has said that only two school board members have been declared ineligible to serve due to noncompliance with the background check requirement. In addition, 10 charter trustees did not comply.
Out of the more than 5,000 school board members and charter school trustees who were required to undergo the criminal background checks, 18 school board members and charter trustees were removed from their boards because the background checks revealed they had a disqualifying criminal offense.
In addition, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) on Jan. 31 issued a new frequently asked questions document to school districts and charter schools.
Long Process The effort began on May 26 of last year, when Gov. Chris Christie signed into law A-444, which requires school board members and charter school trustees to undergo criminal background history checks. Under the law, school officials are removed if convicted of certain crimes.
The NJDOE in early December set a deadline of Dec. 31 for board members to submit to background checks. It then extended the deadline to Jan. 27 of this year to allow time for school officials, who had scheduled appointments for fingerprints, to complete the process.
New Requirements The requirement is similar to the criminal history background checks required of school staff. For years, school board members were not required to undergo such checks as they did not come in regular one-on-one contact with students.
School board members are responsible for the cost of fingerprinting, although unexpended campaign funds may be used to cover the cost.
NJSBA successfully advocated for an amendment to the legislation that allows school boards to reimburse members for the cost of the criminal history checks. NJSBA also developed a sample resolution for use by school boards that want to have the school district reimburse board members for the cost of the criminal history checks.