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University of Illinois Requiring Background Checks to Work with Minors

Following the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal, all University of Illinois employees who have contact with minors will undergo criminal background checks, The News-Gazette reports.

The UI system announced the change on Thursday, along with a system to closely track any events involving children on the UI’s three campuses, such as 4-H programs and music or sports camps.

New polices put in place in July are already being implemented – requiring all employees to undergo training of sexual harassment and on their responsibilities under a new state law to report suspected child neglect or abuse, the article says. The UI says that the changes will better protect young people who visit campus, as well as current students, employees and others.

According to the News-Gazette, the UI policies, developed by a university-wide task force created last winter, include:

Background checks: All current or prospective UI employees who have regular contact with minors will undergo a criminal background and sex-offender registry check. Previously, background checks were only required for security-sensitive positions, such as day care providers, medical personnel and those who work with money or records.

Tracking of minors: Each campus will maintain a record of all scheduled activities involving minors, such as youth camps and performances, with details including location, the number and age range of participants, and contact information for authorities who will make arrangements for the safety of the youths in emergencies. The policy also includes guidelines about who can be overnight with a minor. Before, those events were monitored by departments and units but not campus-wide.

Mandatory reporting: Under a recent amendment to the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, all UI employees will soon be required to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and campus police. They will have to complete an awareness program on their responsibilities under the new law, starting next spring, and will receive an annual reminder of their obligation.

Previously, only certain university employees were so-called mandated reporters, such as police officers, day care and hospital workers.

Sexual harassment training: All employees and incoming students are now required to complete an educational program on preventing sexual harassment and misconduct, and employees will be required to repeat it at least every three years. Previously, sexual harassment training had been required for all incoming students and employees in some campus departments, but not university-wide.

The process for background checks is decentralized, with individual units initiating the checks. It is unclear how many more employees will be covered by background checks under the new policy, the article says. However, a university representative says that new hires will not have to wait too long for a check – UI works with an outside vendor that typically completes the checks within 48 hours, and the hope is that the process can be even faster, the article says.

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