The measure would require school systems to check state and federal criminal records for employees with unsupervised access to elementary and secondary school students, and for people seeking those jobs. Workers refusing to submit to the checks would not be allowed to have school positions, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Teachers' unions like the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers disagree, saying that the measure might jeopardize workers' protections under union contracts. In addition, the NEA wrote that criminal background checks "often have a huge, racially disparate impact" — a reference to critics' complaints that minorities make up a disproportionately high proportion of people convicted of crimes.
Despite those concerns, the House approved the measure by voice vote, the paper said.
"Keeping children safe is not a partisan issue," said the chief sponsor, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. "It's a moral obligation."
"Every school employee, from the cafeteria workers to the administrators, to janitors to the teachers, principals and librarians, that every one" is subject to background checks including the FBI fingerprint indentification system to the national sex offender registry, said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind.
The bill would forbid public schools to employ people convicted of crimes against children including pornography, or of felonies including murder, rape, spousal abuse or kidnapping, said the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It would bar school districts and state education agencies from transferring workers who have engaged in sexual misconduct with minors to another location. The measure would also apply to contractors who work at schools. Employees with violations would be allowed to appeal, but they could not work during the appeals process.
The measure will need approval from the Senate.