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What is a Teacher Background Check?

By Luna Phillips
Updated May 23, 2024
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A teacher background check is a procedure that provides educational institutions more information about an applicant or prospective teacher. The information gathered through the investigation includes criminal records, driving records, past employment records, civil records, educational certification, health and medical records, current and previous addresses, credit history, court records, criminal records, and bankruptcies, among others.

Teaching may be one of the few professions where experience and professional history are as closely scrutinized as personal history. An educational institution carries out a background check as part of its pre-screening process to guarantee the safety of the students. This procedure is legally mandated in the 50 states of the USA. Individual persons such as parents can also hire agencies to do background checks.

For a new teacher, or one in a new district, the application process includes several elements that enable a complete teacher background check. Drug and alcohol tests are not uncommon, for example. Calling references provided and checking on previous work experience is also something that will be done as part of this process. Especially in public school districts in the United States, fingerprints are usually taken and submitted to a national organization, like the FBI, for checking.

Many private agencies offer teacher background check services as well. The latest ones are websites that provide quick, correct, and comprehensive results displayed in an instant. Prices depend on how extensive the check is; the more the information produced, the higher the fee. These services require a degree of specificity to make sure they’re checking on the right person. Thus, certain agencies and websites will provide limits and boundaries to their investigation.

There are three options usually offered for background checks. First is the standard background check, which provides publicly available information. Second is the criminal background check, which combines the standard background check with current criminal records from the state or states where the applicant has recently lived. Last is the background check with a national scope, which combines the standard and criminal background checks with broader, national information.

As earlier mentioned, the teacher background check is legally mandated in all 50 U.S. states. The states have broadly varying standards, however. It is important for the parents themselves to take action and ask the school some basic questions such as: does the school require criminal background checks on their professors, teachers, and instructors? Are the background checks also done for old faculty members or just for new hires?

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Discussion Comments
By anon952817 — On May 22, 2014

Teacher background checking is very important for the students' safety.

By anon310762 — On Dec 26, 2012

We should also mandate and make available stringent background checks of the parents; to see what kind of households our kids peers are coming from. More violence comes out of my kids peers than out of the teachers. We need complete transparency. Everyone gets a background check, period!

By anon296842 — On Oct 13, 2012

What are they looking for in a teacher background check? I had an arrest for marijuana under an ounce and psilocybin, but no convictions. Would this prevent me from receiving a teaching license?

By anon293135 — On Sep 24, 2012

Why is that in the land of the free and the home of the brave there is no forgiveness for past indiscretions and minor criminal history? Surely a person can do penance of some sort?

By anon289848 — On Sep 06, 2012

Imagine a previously good professional person who has made a terrible mistake; found guilty; paid the price demanded by the court; has been free of re-offense for 20 years and yet cannot resume his/her career because it is presumed that this person will repeat the offense. How long must a person pay the price for even a grave error? Is there never any possibility of restoration? "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

By fitness234 — On Oct 14, 2010

I think it is unreasonable to expect a school district or any hiring responsible organization that is charged with the task of filling our classrooms of qualified individuals to ever be really sure of what an individual is capable of.

If we knew that that individual was going to commit a crime in their lifetime than we would simply restrain them and throw them in jail already. Because we are incapable of this type of foresight that we must use simple tests and complicated tests that can help determine the safety of this teacher.

An education background check is one of the most stringent evaluations one can go through besides becoming a police officer, correctional officer, or part of the military industrial complex.

By spreadsheet — On Oct 14, 2010

I want to know where were the background checks we had people like the sixth-grade teacher slept with her student. Was it possible for personal or criminal background check to actually stop this person from reaching the classroom.

That's the other question we have to ask ourselves, are our background checks capable of actually finding the criminals with the worst intent.

What about the safety hazard of teachers that have not committed a crime before but have the possibility of doing so. Are there psychological tests that we could perform in order to stop these individuals from ever reaching anywhere near a classroom.

By MrPolitic99 — On Oct 14, 2010

@Burlap, while I agree that absolutely stringent teacher background checks are mandatory for any type of public education system and private for that matter, I don't think that it would be fair to our potential teachers to completely open and make public their hiring process.

This would be similar to the process that our politicians must go through with the media and the scrutiny that they faced during their candidacy. Some might say that teachers have even more important jobs with the lives of our young in their hands, but I don't think it's reasonable for their personal information to be completely publicized because of some paranoid parents.

I personally trust the value in judgment that can be given from an administrator during the hiring process of our public school teachers. There've been many policies put in the place that require certain levels of criminal checks the past as well as personal background checks of references and work histories.

By Burlap — On Oct 14, 2010

Teacher background checks are vital to keeping the safety of our students in the best possible condition that we can. Can you imagine what would happen if we had a criminal actually able to reach the classroom?

For this reason school districts are responsible for doing absolutely stringent background checks on any potential employees, not just teachers, but classified employees as well.

what concerns me is apparent of three public school students is that these educational background checks and criminal background checks are not up to the duty keeping my children safe.

I would like for the background check information to be made available to the public so that we as parents can evaluate the safety and the assurance to safety our school districts are supposed to be providing.

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