By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — School officials are looking to update the district’s background checks policy for staff members and volunteers.
Superintendent Kristen Vogel said during a recent School Committee meeting that Policy ADDA pertains to background checks. She said Human Resources Administrator Danielle Leonard has been reviewing the background checks policy.
Vogel said the school system has undertaken Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks and fingerprinting in the past. She said the revised Policy ADDA involves having school employees and volunteers go through nationwide Sex Offender Registry Information (SORI) screening through the Sex Offender Registry Board.
“It’s an online portal,” said Vogel. “Once this policy is updated, we will be doing SORI checks as well. Our attorney updated it to be in line with Massachusetts law. We are ready to go.”
School Committee member Jamie Hayman was stunned that SORI checks were not already included in the background checks policy.
“It just blows my mind that this has not been required,” said Hayman.
“Same,” added School Committee member Kate DePrizio.
While the school system previously did not include SORI checks in Policy ADDA, CORI checks are used to search court records for a variety of crimes, including sex offenders and other sex-related crimes such as rape.
In response to a question from Hayman, Vogel said the revised background checks policy applies to school employees as well as school volunteers.
“It’s anybody who had a CORI in the past,” added School Committee Chair Rich Sjoberg. “I call this the enhanced CORI.”
According to revised Policy ADDA, the school system is required by law to conduct state and national criminal background checks in order to “determine the suitability of full or part-time current and prospective school employees or volunteers who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children.”
“The background check for school employees shall include, but not be limited to, obtaining all available Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) from the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) and all Nationwide Sex Offender Registry Information (SORI) from the Sex Offender Registry Board and/or U.S. Department of Justice,” the revised background checks policy states. “CORI, CHRI and SORI are collectively referred to as Criminal Background Information (CBI).
“All school volunteers and subcontractors/laborers who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children must submit to and provide any required authorization for CORI and SORI checks,” the revised policy continues. “The School Committee, superintendent, principal or their certified designees, as appropriate, may require a state and national fingerprint criminal background check for any volunteer, subcontractor or laborer commissioned by the School Committee, school or employed by the city or town to perform work on school grounds who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children.
“The School Committee shall obtain the applicable CBI only for current and prospective employees for whom the School Committee has direct hiring authority (e.g. the superintendent),” the revised background checks policy continues. “In the case of an individual directly hired by the School Committee, the chair of the School Committee shall review the CBI. The superintendent, principal or other certified designee shall obtain the applicable CBI for all other current and prospective employees and volunteers, who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children. The superintendent or certified designee shall also obtain CBI for any individual who regularly provides school related transportation to children. The superintendent shall revise contracts with special education schools and other providers to require a signed statement that the provider has met all legal requirements of the state where it is located relative to CBI checks for employees and others having direct and unmonitored contact with children.”
The School Committee will tentatively vote on the revised background checks policy on Tuesday, Nov. 21.