Thinking about a career in education? Want to coach your kid’s little league team? Be a PTA volunteer? Then you need to know about a new Pennsylvania law that expands the requirements for background checks.
Starting Dec. 31, the new state child protective services law goes into effect, and it requires (among other things) that school volunteers, employees, and independent contractors who are in direct contact with children must have updated clearances every three years. Outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who in November lost his re-election bid, signed the measure – which was composed of 10 different bills – into law last December.
In a press release the day he signed the bills into law, Corbett said, “I thank the General Assembly for their work in passing the first pieces of a comprehensive legislative package to protect Pennsylvania’s children.”
He added: “The legislation I’m signing today will better equip our communities to protect children, and enhance the safety and security of the commonwealth’s children.”
For those who are not aware, or who have never had to submit to a background check, there are actually three different types: child abuse clearances, state police clearances, and Federal Bureau of Investigations clearances – and both school employees and independent contractors working at a school must submit these before working.
There are slightly different requirements for volunteers, though, who need only submit child abuse and state police background checks in most instances.
It should be noted, however, that school districts may choose to require their volunteers to get all clearances.
Why does this matter to you? Because if you have any criminal charges on your record, they could make it difficult for you to do things such as volunteer at your child’s holiday party or coach his softball team.
But in many cases, minor offenses that are classified as a summary offense can be expunged – the legal process by which criminal charges are erased from the system.
So if you have, say, a disorderly conduct, or an underage drinking charge, or other minor crime on your record, and you are considering a career that would require clearances, you should contact a quality Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer to see if an expungement is possible. It could make the entire hiring process easier for you.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Update: September 21, 2017
All volunteers are required to get the Pennsylvania criminal history certification and the child abuse history certification, but they are free of charge. However, if you have lived in Pennsylvania for fewer than ten years, you will be required to obtain the federal criminal history certification, and that comes at a cost of $25.75. If you have lived in this state longer than ten years, there is a form you can fill out and sign for the purpose of affirming and swearing that you are not disqualified from working with children based on a conviction of an offense under Section 6344 of the CPSL.
To clear up confusion about which volunteers are required to get these checks, the state of Pennsylvania has basically said that if the volunteer is acting in the place of or on behalf of a parent, or has direct contact with children to supervise, provide care or guidance, or control them, and have regular and repeated contact with them, that volunteer must obtain the required checks.
Also, all school employees, child care workers, owners and operators of child care facilities or programs, anyone 14 years of age or older who works with children, such as camp counselors or lifeguards and who gets paid to do it must be certified.
People who are trying to adopt children or foster them must also go through the certification process. If they have anyone living in their home who is above the age of 18, that person must be certified, as well.