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​BACKGROUND CHECKS PORTABILITY

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can FBI criminal history certifications obtained through the Department of Human Services be accepted by schools for employment purposes?
 
Yes.  The Department of Human Services (DHS) reviews the results of the FBI fingerprint record check and sends the applicant a letter that indicates the result of the review and whether or not the applicant is eligible for a position that involves direct contact with children under the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL). The report will be on DHS letterhead and will be from the Office of Children, Youth and Families.  The letter will indicate whether:
 
  • No record exists
  • Record exists, but conviction(s) does not prohibit hiring in a child care position according to the Child Protective Services Law.
  • Record exists, but no conviction(s) is shown.  This does not prohibit hiring in a child care position according to the Child Protective Services Law.
  • Disqualification – record exists and contains a conviction(s) that is grounds for denying employment in a childcare position according to the Child Protective Services Law.
DHS notification will also include a copy of the applicant’s criminal history information except when no record exists.
 
DHS letters that indicate that there was no record can be accepted by schools.
 
The DHS letter must be provided by the applicant to the school administrator.  If an applicant presents a DHS letter that indicates a record exists or a disqualification, school administrators should review the criminal history information carefully to make a fitness determination as to whether the person should be in and employment or contractor position that involves direct contact with children under the School Code.
 
Are the list of reportable/prohibitive offenses in the PA School Code and CPSL the same?
 
No they are not.  
 
Schools should seek guidance from their solicitor concerning comparisons of the reportable/prohibitive offenses in the School Code and the CPSL.
 
Can a child abuse history certification or PSP criminal history certification obtained for volunteer activities be used for employment purposes?
 
No. Child abuse history certifications and PSP criminal history certifications obtained for volunteer purposes can only be used for other volunteer activities. Child abuse history certifications obtained for volunteer purposes will indicate that the certification is to be used for volunteer purposes only.
 
Can a school print out an FBI criminal history record to give to an applicant if an applicant requests a copy?
 
Yes.  The FBI has stated that it has no objection to officials providing a copy of the applicant’s FBI criminal history record to the applicant.  PDE recommends that the school indicate on the report that it is a copy provided by the school to the applicant.  For audit purposes, the Pennsylvania State Police requires that schools maintain a list of who was given a copy, the date it was provided, and the individual’s Cogent registration number.
 
Will Cogent still mail an unofficial copy of the background check to individuals?
 
Yes. This is a requirement of the Commonwealth’s contract with Cogent. If applicants have not received their copy in the mail within two weeks of being fingerprinted, they should contact Cogent at 888-439-2486.  Although schools have access to the electronic copy of individual reports for 1 year, Cogent only has access to the electronic report for 30 days.
 
Are name check letters also good for five years?
 
Yes.  Just as with the criminal history reports, name checks are also good for five years.  The name check letters from PDE now state that the letter is good for five years.  Versions of the letter that state that it is valid for 1 year from the date of the letter may still be used and accepted for up to five years of the date of the letter.
 
What if our local school board policies do not currently reflect the recent changes to the CPSL and School Code that permit the portability of background checks?
 
PDE recommends that school districts align their local policies concerning background checks for employees and contractors with the provisions of the PA School Code and the CPSL.
 
Who should schools contact if they have questions?
 
Please contact PDE’s School Services Office at 717-783-3750 or via email at ra-pde-schoolservice@pa.gov.