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October 23, 2013

Should Congress tell all states and localities they many never employ certain ex-offenders in their public schools?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new AP story headlined "House Votes for School Checks for Sex Offenders." Here are is the backstory:

Public schools would be barred from employing teachers and other workers convicted of sexual offenses against children or other violent crimes under a bill the House approved Tuesday.

The measure would require school systems to check state and federal criminal records for employees with unsupervised access to elementary and secondary school students, and for people seeking those jobs. Workers refusing to submit to the checks would not be allowed to have school positions.

A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, cited one estimate that there are 620,000 convicted sex offenders in the U.S. It also found that state laws on the employment of sex offenders in schools vary.  Some require less stringent background checks than others, and they differ on how people with past convictions are treated, such as whether they are fired or lose their teaching license.

The bill has run into objections from major teachers' unions like the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.  In letters to lawmakers, their criticisms included concerns that the measure might jeopardize workers' protections under union contracts.  In addition, the NEA wrote that criminal background checks "often have a huge, racially disparate impact" — a reference to critics' complaints that minorities make up a disproportionately high proportion of people convicted of crimes.

Despite those concerns, the House approved the measure by voice vote. "Keeping children safe is not a partisan issue," said the chief sponsor, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. "It's a moral obligation."

"Every school employee, from the cafeteria workers to the administrators, to janitors to the teachers, principals and librarians, that every one" is subject to background checks including the FBI fingerprint indentification system to the national sex offender registry, said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind.

No one said they opposed the bill.  But Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said that by imposing lifetime bans and ignoring the ability of people to overcome criminal backgrounds, "We do run the risk of doing a good thing, but doing too much of a thing." He said he'd continue seeking changes in the measure as it moves through Congress....

The bill would forbid public schools to employ people convicted of crimes against children including pornography, or of felonies including murder, rape, spousal abuse or kidnapping. It would bar school districts and state education agencies from transferring workers who have engaged in sexual misconduct with minors to another location.  The measure would also apply to contractors who work at schools.

Especially as this bill moves to the Senate, I wonder how tea party conservatives like Senators Cruz and Lee and Paul are likely to look at this seemingly significant intrusion by the federal government into state and local education and employment authority. If applied broadly, it sounds as though this bill would preclude someone convicted decades earlier of public indecency or child abuse from serving as a janitor or construction worker in any public school in any state. Whatever one might think about a state adopting such a rule for its own schools, but it seems like quite an intrusion into state authority for the feds to require this rule for all states and localities nationwide.

October 23, 2013 at 09:30 AM | Permalink


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Another ridiculous attempt by the Feds to put their nose in where it does not belong. They should have NO say in any education policy whatsoever.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Oct 23, 2013 9:41:33 AM

seems like a nautral extension of the criminal stupidity from our govt. After all most states now make it a crime to just be NEAR a school, pool, day care or even a church! so why would it even be possible to work at one?

god what fucktards!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 23, 2013 11:32:51 AM

I agree with TarlsQtr1. Whatever the merits of this provision might be, education is a state matter. The federal leviathan has its place in dealing, robustly when needed, with national problems. What goes on in your neighborhood middle school is not one of them.

If states and/or localities want to adopt a measure like this, that is a different question.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 23, 2013 11:55:13 AM

Sex offender laws, with its signature public, online registry, represents the canary in the mine with regard to American Civil Liberties. I have no qualms with schools and, in limited, scope-defined situations (which would take into consideration all individual circumstances rather than blanket assumptions), states coming out with such laws, but when the feds start mandating such laws, that is when scope expands to non-sex offender-related control of people.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Oct 23, 2013 2:09:39 PM

This seems to be a redundant law as most sexual offenders are not supposed to go near schools as it is.

Posted by: Adam | Oct 23, 2013 2:19:49 PM

You can't fix stupid!

Thomas Jefferson was right.

Posted by: albeed | Oct 23, 2013 2:50:45 PM

The proposed new Federal law wouldn't really add anything here in Kentucky,where you can't work for the public schools if you have any felony conviction at all. A few years ago, I heard Justice Mary Noble (of the Ky. Supreme Court) tell a 30-something black man to come see her after a public forum. He was prevented from working in the public schools because he had had a conviction for "felony non-support" (not paying child support) when he was 20 years old. After that conviction, he put himself thru college and also earned a master's degree in social work. He wanted to be a school guidance counselor,but could not because of his youthful (and non-violent) felony conviction. She offered to write a letter to accompany his application for a pardon from the Governor of Kentucky. On the other hand, I am also aware of a 28-year old Kentucky woman who (in 2000) was prosecuted for misdemeanor prostitution, just a few weeks after receiving an award as "Teacher of the Year" (in Fayette County. She taught first grade, in a classroom across the hall from the wife of the Commonwealth's Attorney. She had been turning 2-3 tricks every Friday night at an upscale local hotel, to earn extra money. Her husband (who wasn't prosecuted) had been setting up her dates for her over the Internet! It was scandalous, and the case made the front page of the local newspaper. But from a legal point of view, first offense prostitution is a minor crime, a Class B misdemeanor. She paid a fine and court costs, but could not be sentenced to jail time. The Ky. Board of Teacher Licensing was surprised to discover that they could not legally revoke her teaching license for a Class B misdemeanor, even prostitution. Her case led to a change in that law. She is teaching today in a small school (under her maiden name, since her divorce)for single mothers, who are going thru a special program at the Univ. of Ky. to get college degrees for single women who have children. Under this new Federal law, she could probably no longer teach at all.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Oct 23, 2013 5:01:23 PM

Very good comments above. I have decided (after reading the comments) that the feds should not tell states what to do on these matters.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Oct 23, 2013 10:40:23 PM


Posted by: federalist | Oct 23, 2013 10:56:04 PM

Sure you can Albeed!

The simple and easy solution to stupid is. When found. Apply one 9mm bullet to the empty head!

They are now cured!

What is hard is curing them before they can BREED and spread it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 23, 2013 11:22:48 PM

I am not sure whether there is a politics to gain support for a base, that says "teachers unions love "defined" "sex offenders", somebody brought up the fact that contractors such as janitors and possibly construction workers who don't work directly at the school may not be allowed to work.

So if your a school contracting company with ties to politicians and don't like organizations that employ ex-offenders (not just sex offenders, maybe some folks who committed other crimes as indicated by the bill). you can put them out or affect their business.

SORNA is also an attempt by the feds to influence states,but of course that's another topic, the mere travel of a person not currently engaged in a crime should not create a crime.

I also note how the politician says "protecting children isn't partisan", of course I am not a fan of partisanship, but he defines the debate, by suggesting those not in favor are partisan, criminal laws are usually a state or local matter, such as zoning and other matters, if one commits a crime against someone or assaults someone in the street, usually the feds don't get involved and aren't supposed to, that's doesn't mean that you are "partisan for disagreeing with a bill", rather its a question of rather its a state matter.

Posted by: Kris | Jan 17, 2014 6:58:03 AM

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