NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) – A bill has been introduced in Raleigh that would regulate teacher background checks at the state level, and require teaching applicants to undergo fingerprint-level background checks before being placed in a classroom.
North Carolina lawmakers have been trying for years to require public school teachers to fingerprint teachers. The movement really gained traction several years ago, when USA Today gave North Carolina an “F” when it came to its tracking system for problem teachers. The state specifically lost points for a weak background check system, where screening is left up to local school districts. Most North Carolina school districts do not fingerprint teaching applicants.
Under House Bill 240, teachers would be required to be fingerprinted, a criminal background check process that is more likely to identify people who had legal trouble in other states, or who may be lying about their identity. This would be regulated by the state, and violent crime, fraud, driving while impaired, and certain drug convictions could keep an applicant from getting a teaching license.
There are documented cases in North Carolina of teachers falsifying their job credentials and getting hired despite felony charges on their records. Several recent arrests of educators in Wilmington has this issue top-of-mind for some people in New Hanover County.
House Bill 240 has made it through the House Education Committee, and according to published reports, it has the support of the state superintendent.