Letter to the House on Criminal Background Checks for School Employees
October 21, 2013
On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we would like to offer the following views on H.R. 2083 to require criminal background checks for school employees, which will be voted on tomorrow.
A safe and secure learning environment is a critical component of a quality education. Educators firmly believe that students need a safe and non-threatening environment to be able to learn to their full potential. Time and again educators have done everything in their power to ensure the health and safety of the students entrusted to them, sometimes even giving their lives—shielding students from harm with their own bodies when a tornado hit in Oklahoma, a shooter invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a gunman hijacked a school bus in rural Alabama, and on countless other occasions.
NEA supports timely pre-employment criminal background checks for all school employees who work with children without supervision. NEA also supports the sharing of the results of such checks while protecting employees’ due process and privacy rights.
However, the debate around this issue on the Hill seems to be playing out without considering that criminal background checks often have a huge, racially disparate impact. In addition, we are concerned that H.R. 2083, while well intentioned, may run counter to existing state laws requiring background checks.
Educators are everyday heroes: teaching, protecting, purchasing school supplies with their own money, filling backpacks with food for needy children on weekends, and performing countless other acts of ordinary exceptionalism. We look forward to working with Congress to attain the goal we all share: ensuring safe schools for all of our nation’s children so they have the opportunity to focus on learning.
Director, Government Relations