School adopts background checks New South Dakota law requires criminal investigation

School adopts background checks New South Dakota law requires criminal investigation by M. Jill Karolevitz Criminal background checks will become part of the hiring process for all school districts in South Dakota as SDCL 13-10-12 goes into effect July 1.

The Vermillion School Board approved its policy for the procedure during its June 26 meeting.

The new state law requires that �each person hired by a school district shall submit to a criminal background investigation, by means of fingerprint checks by the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.�

Prior to hiring an individual, the school district must submit completed fingerprint cards to the DCI. The fingerprints are then forwarded to the FBI for a national criminal history record check if no disqualifying record is identified at the state level. In the meantime, the applicant can be hired on a temporary basis.

According to SDCL 13-10-12, �any person whose employment is subject to the requirements of this section may enter into service on a temporary basis pending receipt of results of the criminal background investigation. The employing school district may, without liability, withdraw its offer of employment or terminate the temporary employment without notice if the report reveals a disqualifying record.�

The Vermillion School District�s criminal background investigation policy defines a disqualifying record as �any conviction for a crime of violence ? a sex offense ? or trafficking in controlled drugs or substances ? Unpardoned convictions for felonies or unpardoned convictions of any crime of moral turpitude ? may constitute a disqualifying record as determined by the school board on a case-by-case basis?�

Crimes of violence are defined according to SDCL 22-1-2(9): murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, riot, robbery, burglary in the first or second degree, arson, kidnapping, felony sexual contact or any other felony in the commission of which the perpetrator used force or was armed with a dangerous weapon or used any explosive or destructive device.

SDCL 22-22-30 defines sex offenses: rape, sexual contact with a minor under 16, sexual contact with a person incapable

of consenting, incest, photographing a child in an obscene act, possession of child pornography, sale of obscene pictures, kidnapping, promotion of prostitution of a minor, criminal pedophilia, felony indecent exposure.

The Vermillion School District�s criminal background investigation policy further states that any criminal conplicant may be treated as a disqualifying record and any criminal conviction may be considered in making a hiring decision.

The Vermillion School District�s procedure for criminal background investigations is based on a suggested form put together by Tom Harmon, attorney for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. Jim McCulloch, attorney for the Vermillion School District, then drafted the local policy.

�There have been instances where people have fallen through the cracks and have been hired by other school districts and caused trouble, so I think this is a good idea,� McCulloch said. �I think it�s appropriate for any employer to do. The bottom line is that this will help protect the children and prevent school districts from being liable for negligent hiring.�

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