MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Security just got tighter at Shelby County Schools as hundreds of teachers and staff are getting background checks again.
An email landed in Shelby County teachers’ inboxes last month detailing the new requirements ordered by state lawmakers.
It was passed last year and demands every school district and child care program fingerprint staff for a state and federal background check before they’re hired and then every five years. That second part is new.
The district’s email went on to say they started re-fingerprinting the first round of staff hired before 2014 on January 1.
Lawmakers said they passed this to create another level of safety and also noted in the new law, employees should include anyone in “proximity to students” and listed examples like cafeteria workers, custodians, school bus drivers and grounds keepers.
State officials also told us before 2000, criminal background checks weren’t even required.
“I think it`s a good law,” one grandparent told us.
“Especially as a mother, my major concern is their safety. If I send my children to school, I want to make sure they are safe,” said parent Shalinda Miller.
Parents we talked to support the idea even with SCS incurring all fingerprinting costs. It’s unclear what the total bill will be.
“Your safety is definitely never too costly especially when it comes to our children, our future,” said Miller.
District officials didn’t agree to an interview, but sent a statement, “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.”
SCS didn’t say what they consider red flags on the background checks, but in the past said they saw serious charges on background checks but everyone is entitled to due process.
We reached out to the teacher’s union for a comment, but have yet to hear back.