Wednesday, June 17, 2009

State Board of Education considering new rules for school employees with convictions

The State Board of Education is debating a proposal that would give greater leeway to school districts to hire non-licensed personnel, such as custodians, secretaries, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers, who have nonviolent criminal convictions.

The proposal would allow districts to hire applicants (and keep current employees) who can show that they have been rehabilitated for a period of years. The proposal would not be a mandate; a school district could apply tougher standards than the state.

Generally, under the proposal, people convicted of non-violent felonies, would be required to show they have had a clean record for 20 years; drug offenders would have to stay clean for 10 years, and misdemeanor offenders would have to have a clean record for 5 years.

In addition to having no new criminal convictions, the non-licensed personnel would be required to provide the district with a statement from a court, parole officer, probation officer or counselor.

While good arguments exist on both sides, school districts should be given the opportunity to hire the most qualified, able-bodied applicants for the job, even if those applicants have a several years-old, relatively minor criminal conviction. Unless there is a good reason to exclude someone with a conviction from working in the schools (i.e. sexual conviction), first-time offenders should be given an opportunity at a second chance if they have been rehabilitated.

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