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Pa. schools want prints

January 02, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Beginning in April, people seeking to work in Pennsylvania schools - including construction crews for building projects - must submit fingerprints to the FBI.

Amendments to the Public School Code mandate that the new laws about state and federal background checks not only apply to prospective employees of public and private schools, intermediate units and vocational schools, but also to independent contractors who have direct contact with children.

The caveat for contractors applies to workers associated with building projects, including electricians, plumbers and heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialists, said Mike Storm, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Next year in Franklin County, building projects at Waynesboro Area Senior High School and Fayetteville (Pa.) Elementary School will continue, and the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District is expected to start work at U.L. Gordy Elementary School.

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Other contractors affected by the amendments will be professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists brought into the schools, said Barry Dallara, superintendent of the Waynesboro Area School District.

Dallara estimated about 10 new hires a year will be affected by the fingerprinting, which will be done at a designated site, electronically submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police and transmitted to the FBI.

"It's intrusive to the person who has to go through the clearance checks, but it's important to the overall well-being of the children," Dallara said.

Under the Public School Code, all prospective school employees must give the employer a current copy of their Pennsylvania State Criminal History Background Check and Federal Criminal History Record.

In the past, without a national database, people who should not be working in schools were able to skip from state to state, Dallara said.

"Background checks have changed a lot in the past couple years," said P. Duff Rearick, superintendent of the Greencastle-Antrim School District. However, the measures in some form have been in place for 15 years, he said.

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