Shelby County Schools To Run Ongoing Background Checks

January 22, 2019
Every employee at Shelby County Schools in Tennessee will be asked to approve a background screening to continue their employment.
Backgrounds Online | January 15, 2019


Every employee at Shelby County Schools in Tennessee will be asked to approve a background screening to continue their employment.

The New Policy For SCS

The office of General Counsel for Shelby County Schools (SCS) sent an email to all active employees. It began by explaining that several new laws were passed during the 2018 legislative session. Among them was a bill that requires teachers and other school employees to have background checks run on them every five years.

Public reaction to this law has been favorable. It is intended to protect children throughout Shelby County by helping to ensure that no one with a serious criminal record is allowed to work with students. Prior to 2000, potential employees were not required to pass a background check.

A district official released a statement about the new law. "Shelby County Schools is committed to abiding to all laws and policies to ensure the safety of our students and employees. For this reason, we notified all SCS employees about the recently enacted Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-413(a) requiring all employees with proximity to children be fingerprinted at least every five years. As the process begins, we will follow all appropriate laws and policies and proceed as necessary noting that information about an employee's criminal records will be kept confidential and used only for the purpose for which it was intended."

TN State Law Requires Background Checks

Ongoing background screenings for school employees are mandated by state law. Tennessee’s Public Chapter 1006 says that in addition to background checks being run when a person is applying for work at SCS, new criminal checks must be run every five years. This is for any employee who works “in close proximity to students” including teachers, custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

This law was put into effect on July 1, 2018. It requires every local board of education and governing body of a charter school to adopt the new background screening policy for all employees, contract workers and volunteers. Background screening will begin in January 2019.

Background Checks At Other Schools

Tennessee is not the only location that is implementing laws for running ongoing background checks on school employees. Among the most notable instances is found in Chicago. After an investigation revealed more than 500 cases of juvenile abuse over a ten-year period, the Chicago Public School District ran new background checks on everyone who worked for them. When this process was completed, the district terminated relationships with hundreds of employees, volunteers and vendors.

More schools are likely to follow and start ongoing background screenings for all workers. Doing so is a simple but effective way to help create a safe workplace, protect students and show the community that school districts are performing due diligence to create a maintain a secure environment.

Best Practice

Every employer could learn a valuable lesson from SCS. Most businesses and organizations run background checks before hiring or contracting with someone, but not all do ongoing checks to follow up. Running annual criminal checks empowers an employer to see if someone on their staff incurs a violent, sexual or otherwise serious conviction. It is an efficient way to demonstrate a continuous commitment to safety.

If you are not currently running ongoing criminal monitoring on the people who represent your brand, it’s easy to get started. Backgrounds Online provides this service with searches on the National Criminal Database, Sex Offender Registry and Terrorist Watch List. Learn more about criminal monitoring or contact us for assistance.