Schools are made safer with checks

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006


Everyday parents worry about their children’s’ safety. The last place they should have to be concerned about their children is at school. Children are safer in schools now than ever before.

The state of Alabama began the Alabama Child Protection Act in 1999. The intent of this act is to allow state, local and other non-public schools to make sure employees are suitable for employment. Teachers in Alabama have to go through a series of checks to prove they have not been convicted of a crime that would take away from their fitness to teach or to have responsibility for the safety and well being of children under their care.

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“Our teachers are fingerprinted. Now, teachers that graduate from an Alabama college are already fingerprinted before they even start in the state school system. The local school system will do fingerprinting on teachers coming in from out of state,” said Dr. Wesley Hill, superintendent for Demopolis City Schools.

“Once teachers and faculty staff are fingerprinted, they are recorded. In the case something should happen with a teacher’s background while they are employed, the school system they work for would be informed by the state,” said superintendent Luke Hallmark of Marengo County Schools.

Fingerprinting is not the only way teachers are checked. A criminal history check has to be conducted on all people seeking positions in school systems in the state. These background checks are reviewed by the State Department of Education and the local school system.

“Our teachers are fingerprinted and background checked. In addition, any faculty member that holds a CDL and drives a county owned vehicle such as buses, maintenance vehicles, drivers’ ed cars, etc., are randomly drug tested,” said Hallmark.

School systems have the right to terminate an employee if it is found that the employee has falsified their criminal history and even their educational history.

“We reserve the right to terminate a person if they have lied about their criminal history, and usually we do. As for falsifying educational history, we look at that case-by-case. Sometimes we terminate them immediately unless they are a contracted employee. In that case, we wait until the end of the year,” said Hill. “We had one employee lie about their background and, of course, they were terminated.”

The background checks done in Alabama are sufficient. The background checking and fingerprinting systems are both working systems, and protect children far more than people realize. Teachers are checked on local, state and federal levels before they are allowed to enter a school system.

Parents can be rest assured that when their child enters an Alabama school, that child’s safety is first and foremost.