Bill To Mandate Background Checks For Public Education Employees Passes First Hurdle

STATE News:
 
SANTA FE  Jan. 30, the House Labor and Economic Development Committee unanimously approved House Bill 190, a bill sponsored by Rep. David Adkins (R-Bernalillo) to require all public education employees to complete a fingerprint-based background check. The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe).
 
The bill, also known as the Children First Protection Bill, would close a loophole in current law that allows employees who began working in their school districts prior to 1998 to continuing working without having a background check on file.
 
Adkins’ bill would require that all applicants for public school district positions and current employees submit to a fingerprint-based background check, regardless of their date of hire. It would also apply the background check requirement to other individuals who are allowed unsupervised access to students such as volunteers and administrative staff. 
 
“As recently as 2015, there were over 8,000 public school employees in New Mexico who did not have a background check on file,” Adkins said. “Parents deserve to know that our public schools have taken every measure possible to ensure their children’s safety. I’m encouraged by the support this bill has received so far, and I will continue to work on this proposal until it becomes law.”
 
If passed, the legislation would apply to all employees of public school districts, charter schools and regional education cooperatives. The bill would give employees without background checks until July 2017 to comply with the new requirements. Once an employee has a background check on file, no new background checks are needed as employers and the state are notified of new criminal activity through the wrap-back process.
 
The Children First Protection Bill has also been referred to House Education Committee.
 
Adkins sponsored a similar bill during the last regular session. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 59 to 2, but it died in the Senate without a floor vote.
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