The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recently sent a memo concerning board member criminal background checks to the state’s executive county superintendents for distribution to district superintendents. NJSBA had expressed concern about the timeline for the background checks and requested that the NJDOE reassess its previous position on the issue. NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod expressed his appreciation to the department for its reconsideration of the matter.
Below is the text of the memo.
As you know, N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1.2 requires board members, within 30 days of election or appointment, to undergo a criminal history background check to ensure that they are not disqualified for membership due to a conviction of a crime or offense listed in N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1.
During the 2013-2014 school year, the criminal history background check process required by N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1 was delayed. By way of further explanation, at that time, the fingerprint vendor for the State of New Jersey was undergoing a conversion of its technology system, which disrupted the scheduling of fingerprint appointments and the receipt of criminal history information for newly elected board members.
In response, in October of 2014, NJDOE’s Office of Legal and External Affairs issued a directive to the Executive County Superintendents, which permitted board members to take the oath of office, pending the results of the criminal history background checks, so long as the board members truthfully swore or affirmed that they possessed the qualifications of membership prescribed by law, including a specific declaration that they are not disqualified due to a conviction of a crime or offense listed in N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1.
On November 30, 2016, the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) sent an email to business administrators/board secretaries, board presidents and chief school administrators, which advised that the NJDOE’s Criminal History Review Unit “notified NJSBA that board members elected to office on November 8, 2016 must undergo fingerprinting before Dec. 14 to be in compliance with the law.”
Following the November 30, 2016 email, NJSBA and NJDOE received questions and concerns regarding the December 14, 2016 deadline and board members’ ability to be compliant.
Accordingly, the NJDOE is temporarily continuing the October, 2014 directive (i.e., permitting board members to take the oath of office by swearing/affirming that they possess the qualifications of membership prescribed by law, pending the results of the criminal history background checks) for board members taking office at the reorganization meetings in January of 2017. However, because the fingerprint vendor’s services are no longer delayed, the NJDOE will be rescinding this directive in the near future. We will, of course, alert you of this change once the NJDOE establishes the effective date of the rescission.