Legal Brief: Student Criminal Background Checks

Requirements to conduct student criminal background checks arise from state law, agreements with affiliated clinical or other training sites and the rules of external agencies. IMAGE: Fingerprint

Ohio Law
In Ohio, state law requires criminal background checks for student teachers and certain licensed health care professionals. In addition, institutions have affiliation agreements with organizations acting as clinical or applied learning sites for student internships. Those institutions are increasingly requiring background checks for students working in these facilities.

Criminal background check results may not be accurate or complete. It may not be possible to obtain complete criminal background information on an individual apart from his/her honest disclosure. Conversely, students should be given the opportunity to explain or correct information collected from the background check that they allege is incorrect or outdated. In the case of disqualifying convictions, many states have enacted periods after which a conviction is no longer considered disqualifying. The institution will need to determine if it wants to establish similar time frames for its admissions and programmatic policies.

Given the sensitive nature of criminal background check information, it is imperative to place limits on who has access to the information. Store the information in a location separate from a student's academic record, so that those with access to the student's academic record are not permitted automatic access to his or her possible criminal record. Only a limited number of individuals should be allowed to have access to criminal background check information, and it should be strictly on a need-to-know basis. Generally, such records should not be available to individuals whose tasks involve evaluating the student's performance because of the potential prejudicial nature of the information.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), such records may not be shared with students, faculty or others generally, but can be disclosed to and used by "school officials" for legitimate educational or security purposes. The institution may wish to notify the student before disclosing the information.

Reproduced in part with permission from NACUANOTES March 10, 2006 Vol. 4, No. 1

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