Background on Background Checks

Background checks are not just for employment. They are pervasive in today’s society. Concerned about a new boyfriend or girlfriend? Wonder about a neighbor? Thinking of allowing a new member into a club or organization? Want to check out an adult son or daughter’s fiancé? In any of these situations, you can go online and obtain a background check. Reports will reveal DUI/DWI Records, arrest records, convictions, misdemeanor charges, sexual offenses, and more. You can even check the background of your grandparents.

One site,, boasts that its system searches more than six billion records from county, state, municipal, and federal courthouses. Many people, through online social media, have opted for transparency. They share activities and celebrations with any of their extensive list of ‘friends.’ Life has become an open book in numerous respects.

What about Employment?

The days are gone when one could lie about college attendance or graduation, criminal offenses, domestic abuse, financial and employment history. However, there seem to be more restrictions placed on an employer checking your background than a friend looking into your past.

As a prospective employee, you have legal rights. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates background checks for employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws against discrimination. In addition to the federal regulations, there could be city and state laws that are applicable. For example, an employer cannot ask if a job applicant has a disability or the cause of an apparent disability. The exception occurs after the employer offers the candidate a job. Once that is done, the employer can require a medical exam to determine if the applicant can perform the duties of the position.

However, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the law regarding medical exams and information only pertains to companies with 15 or more employees.

New School Teachers

Teaching requires educational and examination, as wells as a state credential. The credentialing process involves a criminal history background check. Looking into your financial history, military service, employment history, past work performance is fair game. The requirements can differ by state. Here are some examples:


The state mandates a fingerprint and character identification process. Prospective teachers must complete the Credential Authorizing Public School Service application. The state Commission will review the FBI and California Department of Justice criminal history.


The Texas Education Code (TEC) conducts a national criminal history check on all teacher applicants. You could be barred from teaching depending on the severity of the illegal activity. The TEC decides on a case-by-case basis.


Teacher certification is predicated on the submission of fingerprints to a third party (Gemalto). The Department of Education receives a criminal history from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. They also check the international database of teacher misconduct by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).


According to Florida Statutes, teachers are ineligible for certification if convicted of numerous felony offenses. There are a host of apparent criteria, such as murder, sexual misconduct, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and many more. Some of the other felonies include indecent exposure, theft, incest, neglect of a child, obscenity, and gang activity.

New York

The state requires fingerprinting of all teachers who have contact with students under the age of 21. Private and non-public schools may elect to not fingerprint employees. In public schools, substitute,intern-teachers, cafeteria employees, coaches, clerical staff, and bus drivers also need to be fingerprinted.

backgrnd checks text box

For Hired Teachers

Teachers entering a district with experience or new teachers will undergo a background check, as required by state law. What about existing teachers within a school district? Unfortunately, once hired, many teachers do not experience a subsequent criminal background check. The oversight can have drastic consequences. For example, a 2007 investigation in Pittsburgh revealed that 135 teachers committed illegal acts. The crimes ranged from heroin possession to theft. Some public school teachers advocate that the release of this information is a violation of their privacy. Whereas parents want all illicit activity to be readily available to ensure the safety of their children.

Grading Background Checks

In a USA Today report in 2016, only seven states earned an “A” in background checks. Twelve states, including Washington, D.C., received an “F.” In some states, school boards allowed teachers to resign discretely and pursue a teaching position in another state. This practice became known as passing the trash. States can report teachers’ conduct into the nationwide database. By doing so, makes it more difficult for teachers to gain employment in another state who has been stripped of the credential.

Teachers caught with illegal deeds may lose their licenses. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts has a statute that allows it to suspend or revoke an educator license for cause. The Office of Professional Practices Investigations (OPPI) investigates allegations on the conduct of licensed educators.

From 2012 to 2017, 371 educators in Massachusetts had their licenses revoked or suspended.

Additional Resources:

If I want to become a superintendent, is a Master’s Degree enough, or do I need a Ph.D.? 

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal? 

What are the differences between a certificate and a Master’s Degree in Child Development?

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal? 

What does a school superintendent do? 

What is No Child Left Behind?

Are there any preparation courses for the Praxis tests? 

What is the difference between Praxis I and Praxis II?