The law, signed by Governor Tom Corbett in June, went into effect in September and mandates background checks for all employees of public, private and vocational schools. Administrators must notify employees of the law and have them return a form reporting any criminal history by December 27.
“Our focus now is on helping our members comply with the law,” said Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the union representing teachers and other school employees.
The law, which is retroactive, bans anyone convicted of certain crimes from school district employment for anywhere from three years to life. A conviction for stalking, kidnapping, aggravated assault or other child-related crime convictions would result in a lifetime ban.
School workers convicted twice for driving under the influence of alcohol would be barred from working for a school district until three years after completing their sentence.
Those convicted of a first-, second-, or third-degree felony would be barred from working for a school district for 10 years, while those convicted of first-degree misdemeanors cannot be hired for five years.
Keever said the union was concerned about conflicts in wording between the law and the form school employees must fill out. He said the law only requires convictions be reported, while the form asks employees to check “arrested or convicted” or “never been arrested or convicted”.
The teachers‘ union was asking school districts not to require employees to fill out the forms until that issue is clarified. Keever said the union’s attorneys were also considering whether to issue a legal challenge regarding retroactive implementation.
“It may be unconstitutional to apply the law retroactively,” Keever said.
The law also requires school employees to inform administrators within 72 hours of fresh arrests or convictions. A school administrator who suspects an employee was arrested or convicted and failed to report it can require the employee to get a background check.
Any worker who refuses to fill out the form must submit a current criminal history record from the state and federal government at the employee’s own expense.