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Background Checks

Background Checks and Employment History Reviews of Prospective Employees; Conviction of Employees of Certain Offenses
24 P.S. §1-111
and 24 P.S. §1-111.1
Date of Issuance:
  December 12, 2011
Date of Review: December 12, 2019


The purpose of this circular is to identify and to explain the required background checks for all current and prospective employees, including independent contractors, and for student teachers pursuant to 24 P.S. §1-111.  In addition, the circular identifies required employment history reviews for all prospective employees and independent contractors pursuant to Section 111.1.

General Requirements

Section 111 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949 requires background checks for current and prospective employees of public and private schools, intermediate units and area vocational-technical schools (AVTS), including independent contractors and their employees, except those employees and independent contractors and their employees who have no direct contact with children.  The definition of employee includes teachers, substitutes, janitors, cafeteria workers, independent contractors and their employees, and bus drivers, unless such persons have no direct contact with children.  The law also specifies that student teacher candidates must have Section 111 background checks before participation in any classroom teaching, internship, clinical or field experience. For ease of reference, unless otherwise specified, this circular refers to all persons who are subject to the provisions of Section 111 as "school employees," regardless of the person's actual employment position.  

The following background checks are required under the School Code:

  • PA State Police Criminal History,
  • Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance; and,
  • Federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) – FBI Report.

These background checks must be no more than five years old at the time of application. In addition, administrators are required to ensure that current school employees renew the three required background checks every 60 months. Timeframes for renewed clearances are based upon the date of each individual clearance.  If an individual or agency elected to renew all clearances at the same time, the date of the oldest clearance rather than the most recent would be used.

The primary responsibility for ensuring that the requirements of Section 111 are met for each school entity falls upon school administrators and those other persons responsible for employment decisions in the school entity.  Section 111 requires that the school administrator or other person responsible for employment decisions in a school entity review the background check reports and determine whether prospective employees, contractors, or their employees are barred from positions in which they will have contact with children before hiring the applicant or before contracting.  The reports concerning employees and contractors must be kept on file by the school administrator, together with a notation as to who reviewed the report. 

The law specifies that persons convicted of certain severe offenses (Section 111(e) offenses)1 are subject to a lifetime ban on school employment. The law also includes 10-year, five-year, and three-year bans on school employment for convictions of other crimes (Section 111(f.1) offenses).2 Administrators should take note that the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has held that the application of these employment bans in specific instances may raise constitutional issues.  Therefore, school administrators are advised to consult with legal counsel before applying these lifetime bans in specific situations. Please refer to Act 82: Court Decisions on Lifetime Bans on Employment for Certain Criminal Convictions.

The law also specifies that student teacher candidates are not permitted to participate in classroom teaching, internship, clinical, or field experience if Section 111 would prohibit their employment as a teacher.  Under these provisions, administrators of educator preparation programs are required to review background checks for student teacher candidates to determine whether the student teacher candidates are suitable for field experience.

The law authorizes the Pennsylvania Department of Education (Department) to determine violators of the section and, following a hearing, assess a civil penalty on a school administrator of up to $2,500 for any willful violation of Section 111.  The Department previously issued a Basic Education Circular describing the procedures that the Department will follow when investigating alleged violations of Section 111.  See Basic Education Circular 24 P.S. § 1-111 Violations of Background Checks.

Background Check for Reasonable Belief of Offense, Arrest or Conviction

If a school administrator has a reasonable belief that any school employee was arrested or convicted of a Section 111(e) or (f.1) offense and the school employee has not notified the school administrator of such arrest or conviction, the school administrator must require the school employee to submit to new Section 111 background checks at the expense of the employing entity.  School administrators should consider discipline of any employee who fails to submit to a required background check.  School administrators who willfully fail to order background checks for those school employees whom they reasonably believe may have been arrested or convicted of a Section 111(e) or (f.1) offense may be subject to the penalties of Section 111 and/or educator discipline proceedings.

Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting

Act 120 of 2013 (SB 34) made significant changes to the Educator Discipline Act.  Those changes, which became effective February 18, 2014, include enhanced mandatory reporting requirements.

Use the following link to view additional information related to child abuse recognition and reporting: Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting. 

Reports to the Department

Under Section 9a of the Educator Discipline Act (24 P.S. §§ 2070.1a–2070.18(c)), chief school administrators or their designees are required to report to the Department any educator who has been arrested, indicted for, or convicted of any crime that is graded a misdemeanor or felony.  For purposes of this section, the term conviction shall include a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. The report shall be filed within 15 days of discovery of the indictment, arrest or conviction.

For more information regarding mandatory reporting or to make a mandatory report to PDE, please go to the Educator Misconduct page on the PDE website.

Section 111.1 Employment History Review

School entities and independent contractors 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.  To obtain the forms all potential employees having direct contact with children must complete, more information regarding the Employment History Review process.

Act 168 Frequently Asked Questions

Violations of Background Checks and the Employment History Review

Sections 111 and 111.1 authorize the Department to determine violators of the sections and, following a hearing, assess a civil penalty on a school administrator for willful violations.  For more information, see Basic Education Circular 24 P.S. § 1-111 Violations of Background Checks.

Instructions to School Administrators concerning PDE-6004

Dissemination by School Administrators to School Employees

School administrators are responsible for disseminating the PDE-6004 form to their employees.  The PDE-6004 form must be completed and submitted by any employee of a public or private school, intermediate unit, or AVTS who has been arrested or convicted of a Section 111(e) or (f.1) offense, within 72 hours of the arrest or conviction.    

The  PDE-6004 Arrest/Conviction Report and Certification Form (PDF) must be returned to the school administrator at the address specified by the administrator when PDE-6004 was provided to the employee.  School administrators should remind school employees that they are not to submit the form directly to the Department. 

School Administrator Forms

School administrators should return their own PDE-6004 to the person or entity that is responsible for hiring them.

Employment Applications

Although not specifically required by the law, PDE strongly recommends that school administrators require prospective school employees to submit the PDE-6004 form as part of an employment application.

Independent Contractors/Student Teacher Candidates

School administrators are required to have the PDE-6004 form completed and returned by independent contractors and their employees, including, without limitation, PIAA-registered sports officials. 

To assist PIAA-registered sports officials, the PIAA has a process for submitting required documentation through a portal to the PIAA Officials’ database.  This form will be saved in the PIAA Officials’ database and will be able to be accessed by all PIAA member schools. 

Higher education administrators are required to have the form completed and returned by student teacher candidates.


The intent of the PDE-6004 form is to provide school administrators with information concerning certain past acts of people who have direct contact with children.   In that context, the Department takes a broad view of what constitutes an arrest.  The established law in Pennsylvania is that an arrest is accomplished by any act of law enforcement personnel that indicates an intention to take a person into custody and subjects the person to the control of the person making the arrest.   Accordingly, a person does not have to be taken to a police station or fingerprinted for an “arrest” to have occurred. Whether charges have been subsequently withdrawn or an incident shows on the background check also is not determinative of an arrest for purposes of Section 111.  The Department recommends that if any school employee has any doubt about whether there was an arrest, they should err on the side of disclosing the event.  It will be the school administrator’s responsibility to inquire into the circumstances of the reported event.

Non-Section 111(e) or (f.1) Offenses/Expunged Records

The PDE-6004 form does not require a school employee to report an arrest or conviction for any offense not specified under Section 111(e) or (f.1).  

In addition, it is the Department’s view that Section 111 and the PDE-6004 does not require an employee to disclose an arrest or conviction that has been legally expunged in accordance with applicable law.  School administrators and school employees should be cautioned, however, that not all criminal charges are legally capable of being expunged or, if capable of being expunged, have actually been legally expunged.  School administrators are advised to consult their solicitor if an employee claims that an arrest or conviction has been expunged.

If an employee contends that an arrest or conviction should have been expunged, then it is the responsibility of the employee to contact the police reporting agency to address this issue.

Refusal to Return PDE – 6004 Form

If a school employee refuses to return the PDE-6004 form, Section 111 requires that the school administrator direct the employee to submit to the state and federal background checks required under Section 111.  

School administrators should consider discipline of an employee who fails to: 1) submit the PDE-6004 form,2) submit a required background check, or 3) report an offense that was required to be reported.  

School administrators who willfully fail to ensure that school employees return the PDE-6004 form in accordance with Section 111 and fail to order background checks for those refusing to return the PDE-6004 form may be subject to the penalties of Section 111 and appropriate educator discipline proceedings.

School Administrator Review of Submitted PDE-6004

School administrators are required to review submitted PDE-6004 forms and to determine if the report discloses any information that requires further action. 

The PDE-6004 form should be kept in the employee's personnel file along with a note indicating the school administrator who reviewed the PDE-6004 form.

Incomplete, Unclear, or Altered Forms

If a PDE-6004 form submitted by a school employee is incomplete, unclear, or altered, the administrator should follow-up with the employee for further information and require the resubmittal of the form if necessary.  For example, if the employee has noted a positive response in Section 2 of PDE-6004 (e.g., to report an arrest or conviction) and has failed to indicate whether the positive response was for an arrest or conviction, the administrator should ask the employee to provide this information.

If the school employee fails to comply with resubmittal or clarification instructions, the school administrator should treat the action as a failure to submit the PDE-6004 form and require the employee to be subjected to a background check.

Reports Indicating a Conviction

If a PDE-6004 form indicates a conviction for a Section 111(e) or (f.1) offense, the administrator should consult with school legal counsel concerning whether termination proceedings should be initiated. Please refer to Act 82: Court Decisions on Lifetime Bans on Employment for Certain Criminal Convictions.

Reports Indicating an Arrest

If the PDE-6004 form indicates an arrest for a Section 111(e) or (f.1) offense, the school administrator will likely need to inquire further into the facts underlying the arrest.  Section 111 does not specifically require the termination of employees for arrests for Section 111(e) or (f.1) offenses.  

False Reports

False reports under Section 111 are subject to criminal prosecution.  A school administrator who believes that a school employee has falsified the PDE-6004 form should report the matter to the district attorney where the school is located and to the Department for consideration of professional discipline.

See 24 P.S. 1-111(e).
See 24 P.S. 1-111(f.1).


Purdon’s Statutes

24 P.S. § 1-111
24 P.S. § 1-111.124 P.S. § 2070.1a et seq.

State Board of Education Regulations

22 Pa. Code Chapter 8


PDE-6004 Arrest/Conviction Report and Certification Form (PDF)

Bureau/Office Contact

School Services Office
Office of Elementary/Secondary Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Forum Building
607 South Drive
Harrisburg, PA  17120​
Phone: 717-783-3750