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Bill Would Make Schools Run Background Checks Before New Hires Begin Working

A Democratic lawmaker wants to prevent school districts from hiring new employees before performing a background check.

State Sen. Rebecca Millett, a Democrat from South Portland, says she was very upset when a report found that the superintendent of School Administrative District 6 in York County had hired several employees and put them to work before they had the required criminal background check.

"When it comes to background checks, no one should be able to work in our schools until they have passed one," she says. "The bill before you today would help make sure that won’t happen."

Members of the Legislature’s Education Committee agreed with Millett and were surprised about an apparent loophole in the law that requires all school employees undergo a background check. Several expressed agreement that no one should be working with students even in a temporary capacity without a background check.

"We made the assumption that probably everyone else assumed, and that is the laws in place are being followed. And then to kind out is was actually being skirted was, yes, shocking," says Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of Maine Education Association.

The Department of Education testified a new computer system may help by speeding up the processing of requests by schools to find out the status of an applicant.

For disclosure, the Maine Education Association represents most of Maine Public's news staff.