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A02087 Memo:

NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
 
BILL NUMBER: A2087
 
SPONSOR: Paulin
  TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the education law, in relation to the fingerprinting of prospective employees   PURPOSE: This bill requires the fingerprinting for the purpose of a state and federal criminal background check for each prospective employee of a school district, regardless of whether that person has already been previously employed by a different school district within New York State.   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 amends subdivision 1 of section 3035 of the education law by adding paragraph (b) to stipulate that the commissioner shall require each prospective employee -- regardless of whether they have been previ- ously employed by another school district within the state, or whether their fingerprints are already on file from initial certification as teacher or qualification as a school bus driver - to submit new finger- prints through the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for the purpose of a state and national criminal history background check. Section 2 amends paragraph (a) of subdivision 30 of section 305 of the education law, as amended by chapter 630 of the laws of 2006, by stipu- lating that the commissioner of education, along with DCJS, shall promulgate rules and regulations to require the fingerprinting of prospective employees, including those whose fingerprints remain on file through the initial process of teacher certification or school bus driv- er qualification. Sections 3 through 17 amend sections of the education law, with respect to the types of school districts and boards of cooperative services, by deleting the exception of those who have been previously certified as a teacher or qualified as a school bus driver from fingerprinting for the purpose of a criminal history background check. The amended language provides that school districts and boards of cooperative services require the fingerprinting of all prospective employees. Section 18 amends the education law to require that any nonpublic or private elementary or secondary school fingerprint for the purpose of a state and national criminal history background check all prospective employees. It deletes the exception of previously certified teachers or qualified school bus drivers. Section 19 sets the effective date of this act with exceptions subject to the expiration and reversion pursuant to section 12 of chapter 147 of the laws of 2001 and section 34 of chapter 91 of the laws of 2002.   JUSTIFICATION: Current New York Education Law requires that school districts only perform a national criminal history background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on prospective employees when a new worker is initially hired or an instructor receives his or first state certif- ication to teach. According to the New York State Education Department and the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), a new teacher seeking certification in New York must only undergo fingerprinting for the purpose of a state and 50-state national criminal history background check. However, once that teacher has been certified, DCJS will only report notifications on in-state criminal activity to the school district to which that instruc- tor is currently employed, leaving a large gaping hole to any misconduct committed out of New York State. A patchwork system of state laws and regulations, along with inconsist- ent execution and failure to share information between states and school districts, leaves our children in classrooms vulnerable to teachers with troubled pasts. The case of Freddie Dean Smith, a former teacher and school administra- tor in Westchester County, is illustrative of this issue. Mr. Smith's first run-in with the law occurred in 1989 when he plead guilty to simple assault in South Carolina. Over the next 13 years, his record included 18 additional run-ins with the law, including a felony conviction for eluding police and misdemeanor convictions for trespass- ing, driving under suspension, stalking, and failure to appear/obstruction of justice, and larceny. Despite his criminal history, Mr. Smith was cleared for a New York State School Administrator/Supervisor Permanent Certificate in 2003 through which he was hired as principal of an elementary school. From 2005 to 2014, Mr. Smith moved through a total of four school districts within the state after being fired for various reasons, including charges of plagiarism. His roles in the districts were assistant principal, super- intendent, and director of pupil personnel services. During the changes in employment, Mr. Smith's criminal history was never revealed to the school districts who hired him because existing state law does not allow subsequent national criminal history background checks after the initial one required for certification. Instead, it allows an exception to new hire national criminal background checks if a person already holds a state teacher's certification or has been previously qualified as a school bus driver. This gap in credentialing is a serious one where arrests or convictions of crimes committed out of state could have a direct bearing on a person's ability to satisfactorily perform the duties of the position sought and to which granting of employment would pose an unreasonable risk to the safety and welfare of the school community. Under the provisions of this bill, all prospective employees of a school district are required to submit fingerprints for the purpose of a state and national criminal history background check, regardless of whether they have already undergone one through their past employment at another district within the state. Serious transgression of the law applies only to a small fraction of teachers in New York, but it is imperative that we adopt a comprehensive, strict and reliable system of proper informa- tion gathering and dissemination in order to ensure that such teachers are not able to merely change classrooms and put more children at risk.   LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: A10208 of 2016 referred to education.   FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: To be determined.   EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately; provided that the amendments shall be subject to the expiration and reversion of such subdivision pursuant to section 12 of chapter 147 of the laws of 2001, as amended, when upon such date the provisions of sections four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen and seventeen shall take effect; provided that the amendments shall be subject to the expiration and reversion of such subdivision pursuant to section 34 of chapter 19 of the laws of 2002, as amended, upon such date the provisions of section fifteen shall take effect.
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