June-July 2015

National criminal history info will soon be available to Texas schools

The Q&A that follows focuses on a new development in criminal history records access for school administrators. Texas school districts will soon have continuous access to the criminal records of their employees when they are out of state.
 
According to the FBI, the agency will soon provide “rap back” service to notify authorized agencies (school districts) of any criminal activity of their employees that occurs outside of Texas after they are hired and their initial criminal records are processed.
 
Don Farris, Jr., the manager of the Access and Dissemination Bureau, part of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Crime Records Service, was kind enough to answer our questions on this topic.
 
Q: I understand school administrators will soon have access to up-to-date, national criminal history information on school employees. Can you tell me when that will be the case?

A: Late 2015 to early 2016.
 
Q: Are school districts required to have HR administrators participate in training prior to the rollout of national “rap back” reports (indicating arrests in other states)?

A: The national “rap back” functionality will be similar to what is in place in Texas already. DPS is working on an instructional guide now and it should be available in July. In addition, we plan to create an online training module for FBI rap backs.
 
Q: Will the FBI “rap back” system be difficult to use?

A: Administrators are able to use the Texas rap back system now, so they will not have difficulty with FBI rap backs. We will have personnel available to assist those with questions and online training will be available.
 
Q: Do school HR administrators have to do anything special to get this additional rap back information?

A: Administrators will have to let DPS know they want to participate in FBI rap back.
 
Also, administrators have to agree to keep their accounts current by reviewing monthly verification lists sent by DPS and unsubscribing personnel who are no longer employed by their school districts. That step is critical because it is against the law to view the criminal history of someone who is no longer employed by the district. Also, the FBI will periodically audit districts to ensure that their lists only include current employees. Districts that don’t unsubscribe people who are no longer employed could run the risk of losing access to all national “rap back” information.
 
Q: How will they receive rap backs?

A: Email notification will arrive on a subscribed individual. The administrator will need to access the account and review the information. This is similar to how Texas rap back works today.
 
Q: Will there be a cost for this additional information?

A: Right now, there is a fee of $13 per employee subscribed. However, the FBI is reconsidering that fee after hearing concerns about the cost from potential subscribers.
 
(Editor’s note: DPS doesn’t expect the FBI to make a decision on the fee per employee until 2016. Districts that are interested in subscribing to the service should consider waiting until that final fee has been set. The cost may not change, but if it does, the FBI isn’t going to offer refunds for districts that choose to subscribe earlier.)
 
Q: Is that an ongoing cost or a one-time fee? 

A: It is a one-time, “lifetime fee.” However, if you let a subscription expire or do not validate lists from DPS, you will have to pay the $13 again to resubscribe. List validation will be very important. DPS and the FBI want to ensure all entities are maintaining accurate subscriptions due to statutory authority.
 
Q: Are school HR administrators likely to be surprised by the amount of new criminal history information from out-of-state sources when the rap backs start? 

A: I don’t believe they will be surprised…more likely they will be relieved that the additional information they receive will help them make the best judgment for suitability to work in a school. Also, each time a subscription is created, a new FBI rap sheet will be returned, so there will be a higher volume of FBI rap sheets.
 
Q: If school administrators have questions, who should they call?

A: Please contact the Fingerprint Services Unit at 512-424-2365 or fingerprint.service@dps.texas.gov.