The last thing anyone wants is someone with a history of child abuse or neglect working in our classrooms.
That doesn’t mean, however, that subjecting childcare center or teaching job candidates to endless or redundant background checks makes much sense, either – especially when there’s a shortage of teachers nationwide.
The Colorado Legislature took that to heart during this year’s legislative session, passing House Bill 17-1135 without a single “no” vote.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, allows a childcare worker in licensed childcare facilities to undergo a single records check of the state child-abuse and neglect database if they work at multiple facilities owned, operated and controlled by a common ownership group or school district.
The new law, endorsed by the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, among others, goes into effect in early August, none too soon for the childcare centers and others ramping up their hiring ahead of the start of a new school year.
Previously, childcare workers were made to undergo the child-abuse and neglect records check for each licensed facility in which they work.
It cost the workers $28 for each records check, so the legislation will definitely help them save a bit of money. And while it’s expected to be minimal, the legislation also means a reduction in the workload at the Department of Human Services because there’ll be fewer record checks requested.
Background checks, of course, remain important for two big reasons.
First, they flag criminal history. Although a conviction isn’t always a sign of danger or a reflection of character, as an employer, you should know whether your employees have had troubles with the law. This will help you make a more educated hiring decision when you’re weighing the pros and cons of each candidate.
Secondly, they also help you avoid liability. If you failed to perform a background check on an employee who had gotten into a car accident during work hours, you could be helped liable for damages.
That said, there’s never been much sense in requiring workers to undergo multiple background checks just because they’re working at multiple locations owned by the same employer.
While we’re on the topic, don’t forget that while employers may disqualify employees based on a criminal background check, they can’t do it in a discriminatory way.
Having a uniform background check procedure that complies with state law isn’t enough; a company’s policy also has to comply with federal laws and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules.
In any case, lawmakers took a step in the right direction in passing the background check bill this year. But they didn’t stop there.
House Bill 1003, which also passed, requires the Department of Higher Education — in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education, school districts and other education groups — to develop a plan to address the teacher shortage in Colorado. The department has until Dec. 1 to submit the plan.
It has its work cut out for it.
As many as 3,000 new teachers are needed to fill existing slots in Colorado classrooms.
Joaquin Escobar, an Insurance Advisor at CCIG, handles the risk management and insurance needs of commercial childcare and school accounts. Reach him at 720-212-2054 or JoaquinE@thinkccig.com.
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