Guidance

Iowa Background Check Requirements for Schools

Iowa Background Check Requirement Guide for School Districts & Record Check Process & FAQ for Licensed Centers and Preschools - The 2013 legislative session included a mandate for certain school employees to have a background check conducted.  ISFIS guidance on the legal requirements and transitional issues as well as a helpful chart indicating who needs to have a check run and when is included in this guide.    We thank the Board of Education Examiners for their work in answering background check questions related to licensed employees.

Iowa law requires a school district to check the background of potential teacher employees before signing the employment contract.  Districts are not required to conduct a background investigation of new teachers operating with an initial license since the BOEE conducts the check upon issuing the initial license.  Backgrounds of all other teacher applicants, defined as licensed employees with a 279.13 contract, are required to be checked.  These teachers include nurses, librarians, speech therapists, in addition to classroom teachers, and do not include substitutes who are not issued a 279.13 contract.

The requirement applies to school districts, AEAs and Community Colleges. There is not, however, a prohibition against checking or rechecking the backgrounds of all other employees, including administrators and bus drivers.  It is a good idea to initiate the check on any employee who might have contact with students or access to district money.  Districts may also consider background checks of volunteers or offer the services of the program to construction and other contractors which might be on school property.

Who has to be checked by the district?   Teacher is defined as a licensed employee (other than one with an initial license) given a 279.13 contract. Substitutes who are not given contracts are not included, but nurses, consultants, librarians, speech therapists, etc. who have the same contracts as teachers are covered. The Board of Educational Examiners conducts the background check for new teachers applying for an initial license, so districts are not required to check beginning teachers’ criminal or registry backgrounds.

When must the district check? Before a teaching contract can be signed, the district must first initiate a state criminal history record check, including fingerprinting, through the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) of the Iowa Department of Public Safety. The forms and information can be found on the DCI web site at http://www.dps.state.ia.us/DCI/index.shtml

What other background must be checked?  Districts are required to review the Iowa sex offender registrythe Iowa child abuse registry, and the Iowa dependent adult abuse registry.  You can either take these steps on your own or contract with a vendor to conduct the searches for you. 

Who can help you do this work?  ISFIS has a new program to help your district comply with the letter and the intent of the law.  WhatsTheirBackground.net will check Iowa registries, neighboring state’s registries, and criminal records across the nation. An option to check motor vehicle records is also available.

Background Check Scheduling Tool - We've had a number of schools request information on how to schedule background checks and comply with the legislation that went into effect July 1, 2013. ISFIS has created an Excel-based tool to help you keep track of all of this.  The spreadsheet allows you to keep up to five years of history on your existing and new employees subject to the provisions of Code of Iowa 279.69.  Input your employee names, district ID (optional), date of hire and last background check in the yellow shaded columns and the tool does the rest for you.  The tool will calculate the next background check due date based on the information you entered and then flag the background checks due in the next 30 days each time you open or update the file.  Let us know if the file does not have enough rows to accommodate your import.

Additional Background:  What the law says:

During the 2008 legislative session, the law was changed to require DCI fingerprint checks and other background checks.  The language is now part of the Iowa Code, found in Chapter 279.13 [http://www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/ACO/IC/LINC/Section.279.13.pdf]
 
The specific subsection states:
279.13 Contracts with teachers — automatic continuation — initial background investigations.
1. a. Contracts with teachers, which for the purpose of this section means all licensed employees of a school district and nurses employed by the board, excluding superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, and assistant principals, shall be in writing and shall state the number of contract days, the annual compensation to be paid, and any other matters as may be mutually agreed upon. The contract may include employment for a term not exceeding the ensuing school year, except as otherwise authorized.
    b. (1) Prior to entering into an initial contract with a teacher who holds a license other than an initial license issued by the board of educational examiners under Chapter 272 , the school district shall initiate a state criminal history record check of the applicant through the division of criminal investigation of the department of public safety , submit the applicant’s fingerprints to the division for submission to the federal bureau of investigation for a national criminal history record check, and review the sex offender registry information under section 692A.121 available to the general public, the central registry for child abuse information established under section 235A.14 , and the central registry for dependent adult abuse information established under section 235B.5 for information regarding the applicant for employment as a teacher.
        (2) The school district may charge the applicant a fee not to exceed the actual cost charged the school district for the state and national criminal history checks and registry checks conducted pursuant to subparagraph (1).

Bus Drivers

Effective July 1, 2012 Iowa law requires the background check of a potential bus driver, whether an employee or outsourced contract transportation service, and a recheck with license renewal every five years. Checking the backgrounds of all other employees may not be required, but is good practice; especially for any employee who might have contact with students, access to district money, or be required to operate a school vehicle.  Districts may also consider background checks of volunteers or offer the services of the program to construction and other contractors which might be on school property.

SF 2221 Bus Driver Background Checks:  Section 321.375, Code 2011  NEW SUBSECTION.  1A.  Prior to hiring an applicant for a school bus driver position, including a contract position, an employer shall have access to and shall review the information in the Iowa court information system available to the general public, the sex offender registry information under section 692A.121 available to the general public, the central registry for child abuse information established under section 235A.14, and the central registry for dependent adult abuse information established under section 235B.5 for information regarding the applicant. An employer shall follow the same procedure every five years upon the renewal of an employee’s or contract employee’s school bus driver’s license issued by the department of transportation valid for the operation of a school bus. An employer shall pay for the cost of the registry checks conducted pursuant to this subsection. An employer shall maintain documentation demonstrating compliance with this subsection.

Iowa Code 272.2(17) BOEE background check requirements

17. Adopt rules to require that a background investigation be conducted by the division of criminal investigation of the department of public safety on all initial applicants for licensure. The board shall also require all initial applicants to submit a completed fingerprint packet and shall use the packet to facilitate a national criminal history background check. The board shall have access to, and shall review the sex offender registry information under section 692A.121 available to the general public, the central registry for child abuse information established under chapter 235A, and the dependent adult abuse records maintained under chapter 235B for information regarding applicants for license renewal.
 
New Law Text: SF 452 - Signed by Gov. Branstad June 21, 2013
Division XVII of SF 452 Standard Appropriations
Sec. 137. NEW SECTION. 279.69 School employees——background investigations.

  1. Prior to hiring an applicant for a school employee position, a school district shall have access to and shall review the information in the Iowa court information system available to the general public, the sex offender registry information under section 692A.121 available to the general public, the central registry for child abuse information established under section 235A.14, and the central registry for dependent adult abuse information established under section 235B.5 for information regarding the applicant. A school district shall follow the same procedure by June 30, 2014, for each school employee employed by the school district as of July 1, 2013. A school district shall implement a consistent policy to follow the same procedure for each school employee employed by the school district on or after July 1, 2013, at least every five years after the school employee’s initial date of hire. A school district shall not charge an employee for the cost of the registry checks conducted pursuant to this subsection. A school district shall maintain documentation demonstrating compliance with this subsection.
  2. Being listed in the sex offender registry established under chapter 692A, the central registry for child abuse information established under section 235A.14, or the central registry for dependent adult abuse information established under section 235B.5 shall constitute grounds for the immediate suspension from duties of a school employee, pending a termination hearing by the board of directors of a school district. A termination hearing conducted pursuant to this subsection shall be limited to the question of whether the school employee was incorrectly listed in the registry.
  3. For purposes of this section, “school employee” means an individual employed by a school district, including a part-time, substitute, or contract employee. “School employee” does not include an individual subject to a background investigation pursuant to section 272.2, subsection 17, section 279.13, subsection 1, paragraph “b”, or section 321.375, subsection 2.

 
Sec. 138. STATE MANDATE FUNDING SPECIFIED. In accordance with section 25B.2, subsection 3, the state cost of requiring compliance with any state mandate included in this division of this Act shall be paid by a school district from state school foundation aid received by the school district under section 257.16. This specification of the payment of the state cost shall be deemed to meet all of the state funding-related requirements of section 25B.2, subsection 3, and no additional state funding shall be necessary for the full implementation of this division of this Act by and enforcement of this division of this Act against all affected school districts.