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EMPLOYEES AT PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ARE NOW SUBJECT TO MANDATORY BACKGROUND CHECKS

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Effective December 31, 2014, the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) now includes institutions of higher education (“colleges”) in its definition of “school,” resulting in an expansion of required background checks and other changes to child abuse reporting and training.  One of the biggest reasons for this expansion is the increase in youth programs and enrollment of high school students on college campuses.

Although most colleges already require background checks for their employees, the CPSL mandates criminal background checks and child abuse clearances for applicants, employees, independent contractors, and volunteers who have “direct contact” with minors.  “Direct contact” is defined as providing care, guidance, or supervision to minors or having “routine interaction” with minors.  However, “routine interaction” is broad, and since there is no separate definition or other state guidelines for that phrase as of yet, it is subject to different interpretations.

New employees and those employees with expired clearances are subject to three background checks as of December 31, 2014.  These background checks include: (1) Pennsylvania State Police Criminal History Record Information; (2) Child Abuse History; and (3) Federal Criminal History Background Check with fingerprinting. The cost for the three background checks is around $50 per person.  Existing employees, with certifications dated prior to December 31, 2011, will have one year to obtain new clearances.  Clearances then will need to be resubmitted every three years.

When issued, state guidelines will hopefully address many unanswered questions regarding interpretation, implementation, and time lines in the CPSL.  Interestingly, a commission is supposed to be created to study which crimes should lead to a lifetime ban on employment, and which should lead to only a temporary ban.  Stay tuned to our blog for additional information when this interpretive guidance is released.

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