Excerpted from a Nola.com blog by Elyse Carmosino

Louisiana educators will soon have to undergo a criminal background check before they can receive their teaching license in a move intended to make it more difficult for would-be teachers with prior convictions to slip through the cracks.

Starting January 1, anyone seeking to obtain or renew a teaching certification within the state must pass a criminal background check conducted by State Police. Today, background checks are typically only conducted when teachers apply for new jobs.

The upshot is that new teachers — and the schools looking to hire them — will have to wait for the state to complete their background check and issue their license before they can start working in classrooms. Any delay in that process, which the state education department will oversee, could leave schools with unfilled teaching positions.

“If a classroom is vacant, the system is going to be waiting on us for the turnaround,” said state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley during a meeting with superintendents this month. “There are things that are going to be beyond our control.”

The new policy is the result of a state law passed in 2023. While the law does not require school districts to run their own background checks on new hires who undergo the state’s criminal background check, state officials are advising districts to do so.

During a presentation before the Superintendents’ Advisory Council earlier this month, Arthur Joffrion with the Louisiana Department of Education told the committee that the changes stemmed from a 2019 FBI audit that determined state organizations should use more than one background check for hiring and certification.

He also said the department recommends that districts conduct their own background checks on educators who transfer to their school system from another, even if those individuals underwent background checks for their previous teaching positions. In some cases, districts have uncovered disqualifying convictions that earlier background checks missed, Joffrion explained.

“We are strongly suggesting that any new individual who comes to your system from another, after that initial certification, you continue to require that background check,” he said. “It’s protection for you, it’s protection for your system and protection, most importantly, for our students.”

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