Should school and child care employees fingerprinted before starting employment in order to check their criminal backgrounds? How about fingerprinting anyone who wants to adopt or foster a child?
The governor thinks so.
The state education office announced on Friday that Gov. Deval Patrick had signed a bill authorizing the Department of Early Education and Care and school districts to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all teachers, school employees and early education providers in Massachusetts.
"Prior to this law, school districts and early education providers were allowed only to conduct name-based Criminal Offender Record Information checks covering criminal history record information for crimes committed in Massachusetts," the press release said. "These CORI checks did not include any criminal history record information for crimes committed outside the Commonwealth."
The fingerprint background checks would also apply to everyone seeking to adopt children or become foster parents, as the legislation is written.
Fingerprints would be submitted to the Massachusetts State Police for a state criminal history check and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a national criminal history check, reported the Associated Press.
The state Legislature passed the bill at the end of December, weeks after John Burbine was arrested on charges he sexually abused children at his wife's unlicensed child care business in Wakefield.
Other cases that unfolded in the past year include a former Newton elementary school teacher who was sentenced to 45 years in prison on child pornography charges; a Taunton High School teacher accused of various sex crimes against underage teens; and 30-year-old allegations against a former Foxborough educator.
Massachusetts wouldn't be the first state to enact such a law. Oregon passed a similar law in 1993, and New York and Maine require fingerprinting of school teachers. Texas also has a fingerprint law for teachers, which led to a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency by one teacher who asserted the law violated her First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
What do you think? Will the fingerprinting help keep kids safe, or is this a step too far? Tell us in the comments section below.