New law to protect students begins seeing results - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 10:34 am, Fri Feb 8, 2013.

A new state law mandating background checks for educators has begun to yield its intended result of protecting children, school officials said.


Senate Bill 9, which took effect Jan. 1, requires people applying for jobs with school districts in Texas to submit their fingerprints to authorities for a national criminal background check.


Investigations have begun for current applicants and noncertified personnel. BISD has yet to begin fingerprinting educators or certified personnel, said Yolanda Gavito, administrator for certified personnel.


Those applying for a job with the Brownsville Independent School District have had to drive to McAllen to submit their fingerprints.


Only two of 50 people who applied for classified positions with the district have not been hired after the background checks yielded a record, BISD spokeswoman Drue Brown said.


Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said that the Texas Department of Public Safety along with her agency had completed the background checks for educators and those that hold a certificate from the State Board for Educators Certification for the Austin Independent School District.


Those background checks are currently being compiled, she said, adding, "they have not found much at all.


"We really do expect that to be a trend," Ratcliffe said. "What has happened in other states, about 10 percent of the people (whose criminal background is checked) ... has turned out to be something serious."


A handful of ongoing criminal background checks are being conducted in districts near the Dallas and Austin area, including the Northwest, Georgetown and Round Rock ISDs.


Ratcliffe would not say when BISD's background checks would begin, adding the deadline for background checks runs through Sept. 1, 2011.


"We don't want someone that's got a checkered past to move from district to district to stay ahead of the fingerprinting process," she said. "If they have a problem, we want them to be worried, and know that we are coming."


Susan Fox, assistant superintendent for human resources, said there are no local vendors conducting fingerprinting here, sending those that have applied for a job with BISD to McAllen to be fingerprinted.


She has considered bringing in the equipment needed to conduct in-house fingerprinting.


Originally, Integrated Biometric Technology L-1 Identity Solutions, the vendor handling the fingerprinting for the Texas Department of Public Safety, had plans to set up a fingerprinting location here, but those plans fell through, Fox said.


"We have begun to explore other options," Fox said, adding that she does not have an estimated cost for the equipment. "They haven't gotten any figures to me. I'm anticipating that within the next week or two."


Ratcliffe said there are 78 locations statewide where applicants can get their fingerprints taken, adding that about a dozen mobile units also will be traveling throughout the state.


The state will pay the $52 for the fingerprinting and conduct the national background checks for current employees.

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