Investigation By AG Shapiro Reveals School Districts Must Improve Background Checks

August 18, 2020 | Topic: Criminal

HARRISBURG-Attorney General Josh Shapiro alerted school districts today they are required to maintain criminal history background checks from the statewide child abuse database after a recent investigation revealed local districts may not be following Pennsylvania law.

“In the course of a criminal investigation, we learned that some public schools in Pennsylvania may not be properly checking the statewide child abuse database and maintaining records for every employee,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The law requires that school districts check and keep these records because we need them to help keep children safe. We shared our findings with every district as a warning call so that Pennsylvania children are better protected in the future.”

State law requires that school districts obtain a clearance from the statewide child abuse database, and consult the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI for criminal history information on all school employees and volunteers. Every district is also required to maintain this information without exception.

“Our children look to their teachers, principals, coaches and school secretaries with respect and trust, and districts need to show they have performed their due diligence to uphold that trust and protect their students,” Attorney General Shapiro said in the letter sent to all Pennsylvanian School Districts. “My office works every day to uphold the law, and Title 23 is one law that cannot be ignored. It must be followed and this is why I’ve sent this letter to our 500 districts.”

Regardless of education, training or background, Shapiro said any employee or volunteer within Pennsylvania’s schools must submit the appropriate clearances to the schools and those schools must maintain all required clearances as mandated by law.

“Exceptions to this requirement should not be made for anyone – police officers, judges, attorneys, doctors, elected officials, clergy or anyone who serves in a position of authority or trust are not entitled to special exception. The law applies to everyone equally,” the Attorney General said.

Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Daniel J. Dye is leading this effort within the Office of Attorney General.

A copy of the letter is here.

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