Excerpted from a Shelbyville Times-Gazette story by Dawn Hankins

If you’re a parent worrying about a sexual predator teaching your child, a new state law requiring that all school employees undergo background checks every five years, might just have your student’s back.

“Even if a teacher has been with us for 15 years, they still have to have a background check every five years,” explained Superintendent Don Embry last Tuesday night. “Supervisors, even myself, must have background checks.”

Embry told Bedford County Board of Education that new revisions in current school employment policy needed approval. Those changes were based on new state legislation passed this year, sponsored by State Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville).

Fingerprinting and background checks have always been completed for prospective applicants, Embry said. A new hire will see a $32.65 charge for the background checks and any related expenses from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the FBI divided between their first two paychecks.

The newly revised BCBE employment application, approved Tuesday, states if someone has been identified by the Department of Children’s Services as a “perpetrator of child abuse, severe child abuse, child sexual abuse or child neglect, they will not be considered for employment with Bedford County School System.” Neither will someone considered a threat to the health, safety and welfare of students.

Embry recommended to the board that after five years of service, an employee’s background check be a budgeted expense. He said he doesn’t believe it is fair for a 15-year employee to have to pay for repeated background checks.

Glenn Forsee asked Embry what level of school “volunteer” should be subject to a background check. Embry said those subjected to checks are persons deemed by schools to be permanent helpers. A volunteer coach would fall under that category, Embry noted, as that person would have repeated close proximity with children.

“A parent who might sign up once a year to work a popcorn stand is not considered a permanent volunteer and therefore would not be subject to a background check,” Embry said.

Embry reminded the board that school visitors have their personal information scanned through Raptor Technology before entering student areas. Raptor scans for potential sex offenders through the Tennessee Sex and National Sex Offender registries.

In addition, if there are state custody issues involving students, that information can be available to school personnel by submitting a free query to the proper state agency, according to Andrea Miller-Davis, central office human resources manager. Her office conducts free periodic checks on current employees.

“We don’t discriminate on why they’re there,” said Miller-Davis.

The new law requires school superintendents to check the teaching license status of educators. Should Embry and other superintendents be informed by Tennessee Board of Education of any licenses on hold, it is their office’s responsibility to find out why, the law states.