Excerpted from a Lexington Herald-Leader story by Valarie Honeycutt Spears
A Kentucky law with “good intentions” is causing serious problems for school districts around the state, just as teachers and staff prepare for the beginning of the school year.
The law requires child abuse and neglect background checks of public school personnel, student teachers, contractor and parents on school based decision making councils. A letter from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which is responsible for processing the checks, is required to verify a check has been completed.
Thousands of requests for these background checks are pouring into the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as a result of Senate Bill 236 approved by the 2017 General Assembly. The bill went into effect July 1.
The process is causing a back-to-school headaches for the agency and for many Kentucky school districts.
“Thousands of check requests have been submitted,” said Doug Hogan, spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services whose Department for Community Based Services is responsible for processing the checks. “Given this volume, it currently takes about three weeks to process these checks compared to a turn-around of about one week before the new law.”
“This process includes searching the protection and permanency database for an individual’s history, if any, with the agency, and then determining what, if any, of that history can and should be released.”
Prior to the new law, criminal background checks were required for all school system employees and school volunteers. Now, the background checks include a state social worker’s substantiation of child abuse or neglect.
“Districts are in just absolute agony dealing with this new letter,” said Wayne Young, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. “They are really struggling. It’s really hamstringing a lot of people.”
Hogan explained that the process of the background check is time consuming because some information must be entered manually to “verify the registry file results, capture individuals who are … pending investigation or appeal of an abuse/neglect substantiation, confirm identity, and/or query for possible name changes and multiple address changes.”
The process requires some degree of discernment in reviewing the database information and application of the administrative regulation, Hogan said. “This process adds to the already heavy workload of our administrative staff.”
In order to expedite the process, the cabinet is hiring more staff to handle the “immediate and future volumes of background check requests from schools,” he said.
Madison County Schools Human Resource Director Dustin Brumbaugh said he has “definitely been waist deep” in the problem.
The law has “good intentions,” Brumbaugh said. “The issue we are running into is that we are hiring a lot of people” because it’s the beginning of the school year.
You can read the full story here.