An increase in the use of online student services, such as tutoring, has raised the question of what type of criminal history checks should be required of those leading the sessions or interacting with students.
All district employees and contract employees who have direct contact with students are subject to a national criminal history check through the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which requires the individual to be fingerprinted before beginning work.
A contractor providing services to a school district or charter school is subject to fingerprinting if the contractor will have continuing duties related to the contracted services and will have the opportunity for direct contact with students. Direct contact is not limited to physical contact with students. The definition of “direct contact” includes contact that provides a substantial opportunity for verbal or physical interaction, so contact necessary to provide a service such as tutoring is included. Because this type of interaction provides the opportunity to “groom” a student and commit an abusive act towards a child, it’s important to conduct the national check using the fingerprinting process.
As the result of a 2019 FBI audit of DPS practices, most contractors no longer have access to the Fingerprint Applicant Clearinghouse of Texas (FACT). Districts and charter schools must ensure that contractors are fingerprinted and may use the Fast Pass option and create subscriptions in the FACT Clearinghouse to review an individual’s results.
Detailed information on requirements for school district contractors is available on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website and in this HRX article. The TASB School Law eSource paper Criminal History Reviews of District Employees and Volunteers provides an explanation of district requirements.
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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