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Act 153: Criminal Background Checks and Clearances for Those Employed by Colleges and Universities

Education Law Alert | December 23, 2014
By: Nancy Conrad and Stephanie A. Kobal

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has amended the Child Protective Services Law several times over the past two years. One of the most recent amendments was contained in Act 153 of 2014 (the “Act”), which becomes effective on December 31, 2014. The Act was part of the culmination of a two-year effort to improve Pennsylvania’s child protection laws.

Importantly, the Act places new obligations on private colleges and universities with respect to background checks, pre-employment certifications and clearances. Specifically, the Act provides that all school employees, independent contractors and volunteers must successfully complete:

  1. A report of criminal history record information from the Pennsylvania State Police;
  2. A certification from the Department of Public Welfare as to whether the applicant is named in the statewide database as the alleged perpetrator in a pending child abuse investigation; and,
  3. A fingerprint clearance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (collectively, the “Clearances”).

A school employee is defined as any individual who is employed by a school. A person who has no direct contact with children does not fall within the definition of a school employee. A person has direct contact with children if they have “routine interaction with children.” To date, there is no guidance as to what constitutes “routine interaction with children.”

School employees must obtain new Clearances every 36 months. Any school employees who have current Clearances issued prior to December 31, 2014 must obtain new Clearances within 36 months from the date of their most recent Clearances. This means that an individual with Clearances dated January 2012 will need to obtain new Clearances by January 2015. If a school employee’s Clearances are older than 36 months, the school employee must obtain new Clearances on or before December 31, 2015. In addition, the Act requires that schools maintain the documentation evidencing that a school employee has successfully obtained these Clearances and requires new employees to produce the Clearances prior to employment. Further, if a school determines that an applicant is disqualified from employment for failure to successfully obtain the Clearances, the applicant should be immediately dismissed from employment.

Because many colleges and universities have a population of students and other individuals under the age of 18, there are many employees on campus who arguably will have “routine interaction” with a child. Accordingly, it is a best practice for colleges and universities to obtain the required Clearances for employees, independent contractors and volunteers who routinely interact with people under the age of 18.

If you need advice, you may contact Nancy Conrad (610.782.4909,conradn@whiteandwilliams.com), Stephanie A. Kobal (610.782.4942kobals@whiteandwilliams.com) or any member of our Labor and Employment Group for further assistance. 

This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.
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