Teacher background checks would be required if Kansas Senate bill passes

Education
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TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Kansas State Board of Education is on board with the part of Senate Bill 335 that would require all teachers to have background checks. But there is a provision in this bill that also allows for drug testing and that is the big concern for detractors.

Senator Greg Smith (R), who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 335, is a former military man and police officer.

“I had to have background checks on both of those jobs I was subject to random urinalysis. When I became a teacher in 2008, I was fingerprinted and they ran a background check and I thought, ‘Okay, this is great,’ and assumed that is the norm for every teacher and found out it is not,” he said.

Thirty-five thousand of the 42,000 Kansas school teachers were on the job before the 2002 law that requires background checks.

“This goes back and grabs those 35,000 that have never been touched and then additionally to expand that to all employees of public schools, so that anybody who comes in contact with a kid would then be background checked,” Senator Smith said.

The Blue Valley School District is one of many school districts that do national background and fingerprint checks already, if made into law, this bill would make a standard for the entire state.

'That's for teachers, counselors, nurses, it's for custodians, it's for food service staff, it's for substitute teachers. If they are working in Blue Valley schools, we will do a criminal background check," Scott McWilliams with the Blue Valley School District said.

Senator Smith indicated that Kansas National Educated Association testified neutrality in regards to this bill, but it does have concerns that general counsel David Schauner brought up.

"Our concern about fingerprints is that fingerprints are not predictive of future conduct," Schauner said. "The second piece about drug testing is perhaps the one we have the biggest global concern about. Whether I pass or fail, that drug test ends up in the hands of the State Department of Education and theoretically is available to every prospective employer."

The drug testing portion of the bill is not mandatory. It allows for drug testing by school districts if they have reasonable suspicion a teacher is using drugs or alcohol. The reasonable suspicion policy would be determined by each individual school district.

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