Law requiring more school background checks good

Among the new laws that took effect July 1 in Indiana, one is intended to help maintain a safe and secure environment for children attending school.

House Enrolled Act 1079, co-authored by state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, requires background checks on all employees of schools every five years. That includes teachers, administrators, support personnel and all other school-based workers.

The law previously required a background check and child protection index only at the time of hire. The additional steps keep that effort ongoing, which is appreciated.

House Enrolled Act 1079 also tightens requirements. New hires must complete a criminal background check within 30 days and a child protection index check within 60.

The new steps required under the legislation reflect wise decisions that have students’ best interests at heart. However, the checks come with a cost.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. estimated that completing checks on 20 percent of school employees annually would cost $11,000.

Unless school districts offer to pay the cost, however, the additional background checks will be school employees’ responsibility, similar to the new-hire approach.

With the new law in effect and more background checks required, this is a good time to revisit who should bear the burden of the costs for the additional checks.

Rather than teachers bear the full extra cost, it would seem that the community as a whole — which benefits with regularly-screened teachers and school staff — ought to bear some level of financial responsibility.

Families want to know that their students are safe in the classroom, and the recently passed state law helps ensure that. The associated cost is a worthy investment to achieve that end, and one that more than just the teachers should bear.

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