On Feb. 16, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 4 into law. The law includes important amendments to Section 111 of the School Code concerning background checks that are intended to conform portions of that law with recent changes to the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL).
Section 111 of the School Code requires background checks for all school entity (public and non-public) employees, contractors and student teachers who have direct contact with children. The required background checks are from the Pennsylvania State Police, Department of Human Services (DHS) child abuse, and FBI fingerprint/records check. Act 153 of 2015 amended the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) to require that these Section 111 checks be renewed every 60 months. Act 4 brings the School Code in alignment with this CPSL requirement or renewal of background checks and also provides that any of the three required background checks may now be used by potential applicants for up to five years. Prior to this change, background checks could not be used by applicants if they were more than one year old.
The 3M Cogent online system currently retains individual federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) for one year. PDE will be working to establish a system that will retain the CHRI report for five years. Until that system is in place, school administrators who wish to accept copies of CHRI reports that are no longer retained by 3M Cogent are permitted to accept paper copies of CHRI reports from applicants that are up to five years old. These paper copies should preferably be the unofficial copy of the CHRI provided to the applicant on PDE letterhead. An applicant who has not retained the unofficial copy of their CHRI obtained from 3M Cogent is also permitted to request a copy of their CHRI from their current employer to supply to a prospective employer. Applicants are also required to complete the form required by Section 111(j)(1) of the School Code (the PDE 6004 form) indicating they have not been disqualified from employment.
PDE is also in the process of updating and revising its website to reflect the recent changes to the CPSL and School Code as it pertains to background checks. Future expected changes include updating and placing in one document the Department's Frequently Asked Questions. Links to current resources and guidance can be found below:
Revised PDE Form 6004:
To view PDE's guidance on background checks for contractors, go to http://www.education.pa.gov/Documents/Teachers-Administrators/Background%20Checks/Contractor%20FAQs.pdf.
To view PDE's guidance on background checks for volunteers, go to http://www.education.pa.gov/Teachers%20-%20Administrators/Background%20checks/Pages/Act-15-Faqs.aspx#.Vsy8BGQo4qI.
To view the DHS factsheets on school employees and volunteers go to http://keepkidssafe.pa.gov/ and click on the blue box entitled "Who needs child abuse clearances?"
For additional information, please contact PDE's School Services Office at 717-783-3750 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For applicants who have been required to obtain "name checks" with the FBI due to the inability to read finger prints, PDE letters that disclose the result of name checks may be used up to five years.
CHILD PROTECTION UPDATE: The General Assembly passed and the governor has now signed House Bill 1276 into law—it is now Act 15 of 2015. The Act makes several changes to Act 153, including the following: