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Background Checks

The purpose of this site is to provide procedural information for applicants on obtaining criminal and child abuse history clearances and to offer school administrators guidance on frequently asked questions regarding related laws and regulations. We recommend that administrators familiarize themselves with 24 P.S. §1-111, as amended, and the Child Protective Services Law concerning background checks in order to better understand these requirements.

Additional information, including procedures for obtaining the employment clearances listed below, may be accessed via the hyperlinks listed in the right menu.

Overview

Employee Background Checks

Pennsylvania School Law requires that all applicants for employment in public and private schools, employees of independent contractors seeking business with public and private schools, and student teacher candidates undergo background checks if they will have direct contact with students. The following three background checks are required:

  • Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Pennsylvania State Police Request for Criminal Records Check
  • Federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI)

School Volunteer Background Checks

Under Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law, school volunteers who are responsible for the child's welfare or who have "direct volunteer contact" with children at a school (i.e., the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children and routine interaction with children) are required to have background checks.

Act 4: Impact on Background Check Renewal Period & Process

On Feb. 16, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Act 4, which included important amendments to Section 111 of the School Code concerning background checks.

Prior to Act 4 of 2016, background checks more than 12 months old could not be used for prospective school staff and service providers; however, Act 153 of 2015 amending the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) required Section 111 checks be renewed every 60 months. The passing of Act 4 aligns the School Code with the new CPSL requirement and permits any of the three required background checks to be used by potential applicants for up to 5 years (i.e., 60 months).

Currently, background check results are stored in the 3M Cogent online system for 1 year. Until a system retaining 5 years of data is in place, school administrators are permitted to accept applicants' paper copies of Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) reports that are between 1 and 5 years old.

Preferably, the paper copy should be the unofficial CHRI report on Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) letterhead provided to the applicant by 3M Cogent at the time of clearance. Applicants who have not retained their unofficial paper copies from 3M Cogent may request copies of their CHRI reports from their current employers to supply to prospective employers. For applicants required to obtain FBI 'name checks' due to their inability to register readable finger prints, copies of the reports issued on PDE letterhead and disclosing the results of the name checks should be used.

In addition to the unofficial CHRI report, an applicant must complete and submit to a prospective employer the PDE Form 6004 (PDF), required by Section 111(j)(1) of the School Code, indicating that the applicant has not been disqualified from employment.

Act 168: Employment History Review

As of December 22, 2014, a school entity or an independent contractor may not hire any applicant for a position in which the employee will have direct contact with children until the school entity has complied with the employment history review process delineated in Act 168 of 2014 (24 P.S. § 1-111.1).  Guidance on the procedures and forms for the employment history review may be found in the Act 168 Basic Education Circular (PDF).

Act 82: Court Decisions on Lifetime Bans on Employment for Certain Criminal Convictions

On December 13, 2012, Commonwealth Court issued opinions in three cases, each of which held that the lifetime ban on employing individuals convicted of certain crimes listed in the Pennsylvania School Code (24 P.S. § 1-111(e)) violated the Pennsylvania Constitution as applied to the individual plaintiffs involved. As there are several important impacts on school employers, PDE issued the Act 82 Guidance on Lifetime Bans (PDF) to school administrators concerning their continuing obligations under Section 111(e) of the School Code in light of these cases.

Act 24: Reporting Arrests & Convictions

Act 24 of 2011 contains a number of significant changes to the Pennsylvania Public School Code that are designed to enhance the safety of school children. Among the changes, Act 24 amends Section 111 of the School Code to expand the list of prohibitive criminal offenses and ensure that then-current school employees who may not have been subject to a previous background check were required to provide assurances that they had not been previously arrested or convicted of a Section 111(e) offense.

Additionally, Act 24 requires that all school employees complete and return to their school administrator a PDE Form 6004 (PDF) within 72 hours of any arrest or conviction of an offense listed in Section 111(e). If an employee refuses to submit the form, Act 24 requires that the School Administrator submit the employee to a new background check under Section 111.  

Contact Information

For additional information, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Education School Services Office at 717-783-3750 (phone) or ra-pde-schoolservice@pa.gov.

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