School Workers in Mass. Get New Scrutiny

After months of delays, Massachusetts school districts have started fingerprinting teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and other employees, and forwarding the information to the FBI for national background checks. Massachusetts is the last state to fingerprint school employees to more fully search for past criminal activity. The FBI will run submitted prints through its databases, enabling schools for the first time to receive criminal histories from jurisdictions outside Massachusetts and enhancing the chances of identifying any staff member with a criminal past. Previously, local districts only had access to Massachusetts criminal records. “It’s a little overdue,” said Jeff Wulfson, a deputy commissioner at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The most contentious part of the new requirement has been the cost. Staff members must pay the processing fee, $55 for licensed educators and $35 for other employees. However, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts is pushing legislation that would shift the cost onto school districts instead. “The district’s highest priority is to provide a safe atmosphere for all of our students and staff and we believe that this measure is a valuable tool towards ensuring that,” said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Boston public schools.

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