Association of Texas Professional Educators
 

 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Fingerprinting

Why do educators have to be fingerprinted?
Who must be fingerprinted?
Is there a cost for me to be fingerprinted?
When will I be fingerprinted?
Will fingerprinting be done over the summer? What if I am out of town?
Where do I go to be fingerprinted?
What happens to the information that is gathered as a result of the fingerprinting?
What happens if I don’t comply with the fingerprinting law?
Will I receive any confirmation that my background check has been completed?
Do I have to give out my Social Security number in order to be fingerprinted?
When it was my turn to be fingerprinted, I had to fill out a form that asked for information such as my hair color, weight, skin tone, etc. Why is this information needed, and what happens to it after the background check is completed?
I’m worried about the possibility of identity theft. How do I know that my personal information is safe?
I was fingerprinted once before when I applied for a gun permit; do I have to be fingerprinted again?
If I move to another school district, will I have to be fingerprinted again?
If I have an arrest in my background, may I obtain a copy of the information my district receives from DPS after I’ve been fingerprinted?
Where can I go for more information?
 

Why do educators have to be fingerprinted?
Fingerprinting is required as a result of Senate Bill (SB) 9, adopted in 2007. To read more about the background of the fingerprinting law see Fingerprinting Requirements for Educators.

Who must be fingerprinted under the new law?
SB 9 requires all certified educators, substitute teachers and classroom aides to be fingerprinted for the national criminal history review by the FBI. Other school support staff hired before January 1, 2008, are subject only to a background check of state criminal records, which does not require fingerprinting. However, support staff hired in 2008 or later will be subject to the fingerprinting requirements, as will some contractors who perform work in public schools.1

Is there a cost for me to be fingerprinted?
New applicants for educator certification already pay a fingerprinting fee when they apply for a certificate.

Until August 2011, the state covered the cost of the fingerprinting for existing certified educators subject to the fingerprinting law, as long as the educator was employed in a Texas public school during the 2006-07 school year.

Any non-certified employees who are subject to the fingerprinting requirement are responsible for paying the cost of fingerprinting, but school districts are authorized to pick up the cost of fingerprinting their own non-certified employees or applicants if they wish to do so. The current cost is $52.20, which includes a criminal history review fee of $42.25 and a fingerprint capture fee of $9.95.

Support staff subject only to a name-based background check without fingerprints may be required to pay a fee of $1.

When will I be fingerprinted?
Current law requires the state to complete the fingerprinting of certified educators by Sept. 1, 2011. School districts must ensure that non-certified employees hired after Jan. 1, 2008, are fingerprinted before they start work in the district.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is implementing the fingerprinting process for certified educators on a rolling basis over the next three years. TEA will follow a schedule and notify each school district and charter school when it is time for its employees to be fingerprinted. The full schedule is not released to the public, but you can visit www.tea.state.tx.us/fingerprinting/ to find out which school districts have already begun the fingerprinting process.

When it is your district’s turn, you will receive an e-mail from TEA saying that you must be fingerprinted and undergo the criminal history review within 80 days. You should also receive a reminder from your school district about the deadline. Upon receiving the TEA notice, you will register at the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) website and then receive another e-mail containing your “FAST Pass” authorization to be fingerprinted. Your fingerprints cannot be taken until you have received a FAST Pass. View a sample FAST Pass fingerprint authorization form (PDF).

Will fingerprinting be done over the summer? What if I am out of town?
Some school districts will have to undergo the fingerprinting process during the summer months in order for the state to comply with law’s Sept. 1, 2011 deadline. Once you receive the TEA notice, you must complete the fingerprinting/background check process within 80 days, even if you are not in school. Exceptions will not be granted to accommodate scheduling conflicts.

Where do I go to be fingerprinted?
All fingerprinting is being done digitally by a private vendor, L-1 Identity Solutions, which has contracted with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The vendor will work with school districts and regional education service centers to arrange times for certified employees in each district to be fingerprinted. Most of the fingerprinting is expected to be done via mobile units that will visit schools around the state. On average, the mobile units are capable of collecting fingerprints from 50 people per day.

The DPS also maintains fingerprinting equipment at several permanent sites throughout the state. New hires/applicants for positions that do not require certification, as well as certified educators who do not use the mobile fingerprinting service, will be directed to schedule an appointment at one of these locations. Please see www.l1id.com or call L-1 Identity Solutions at (888) 467-2080 for a list of all the fingerprinting sites in Texas.

What happens to the information that is gathered as a result of the fingerprinting?
National criminal history information on all educators will be maintained by the DPS in a state database or clearinghouse. TEA officials will review the information and then notify districts whether or not an individual is employable under the law. State law prohibits individuals who have been convicted of certain serious offenses from being employed in a public school. Individuals who are found to be ineligible for school employment will receive a notice from TEA.

Only certain authorized school district personnel will be able to view any criminal history information that turns up on that particular district’s current employees, as well as applicants for jobs in the district.

If an educator who is already in the database gets arrested, the files will be updated and notices will be sent to the SBEC and to the school district or charter school in which the educator is employed. In these instances, school districts must pay a $1 fee to receive updated information on an employee’s criminal record.

Members should be aware that criminal activity revealed through a background check could result in disciplinary proceedings by SBEC and/or adverse employment actions being taken by a school district. If you have concerns about potential actions being taken against you, please contact ATPE’s Member Legal Services department for assistance and advice.

What happens if I don’t comply with the fingerprinting law?
Complying with the fingerprinting mandate is required by state law. If you do not submit to the fingerprinting and background checks within 80 days of your initial notice from the TEA, your certificate will be placed on inactive status. The deactivation of your certification will likely lead to the loss of your job because school districts are required by law to hire educators who hold active certificates; furthermore, state law provides that an educator’s employment contract is void if the educator loses his certification. Therefore, ATPE strongly recommends that you comply with the fingerprinting requirements.

Will I receive any confirmation that my background check has been completed?
When your digital fingerprints are taken, L-1 Identity Solutions will provide you with a receipt. Educators are encouraged to keep their receipts and to provide a copy to their school districts. The receipt proves that you have submitted your fingerprints, but it does not denote completion of the entire background check process, nor does it signify that you have a clean record with no criminal history.

At the present time, TEA does not have the means to send you a confirmation that your fingerprints have been received and your background check processed. The agency hopes to implement a procedure in the future that would allow educators’ virtual certificates to reflect successful completion of the fingerprinting process.

Do I have to give out my Social Security number in order to be fingerprinted?
Yes. The Texas Government Code requires that you provide your Social Security number. Also, Social Security numbers are currently the only way that SBEC and TEA can identify an individual educator. The agency is piloting a new system that would eventually replace Social Security numbers with unique identifiers in SBEC’s database.

When it was my turn to be fingerprinted, I had to fill out a form that asked for information such as my hair color, weight, skin tone, etc. Why is this information needed, and what happens to it after the background check is completed?
According to TEA officials, the FBI requires the collection of certain data on physical characteristics in order for the DPS vendor to collect and process fingerprints for the national background check. Information forms collected by the vendor are kept on file for one year and then destroyed, according to the manager of the DPS Access and Dissemination Bureau. Also, the ATPE-initiated changes made by House Bill (HB) 2730 in 2009 require the vendor to destroy the information within one year.

I’m worried about the possibility of identity theft. How do I know that my personal information is safe?
According to the DPS official we consulted, the state’s clearinghouse complies with the security policy imposed by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division for the purpose of safeguarding data collected through background checks. That policy sets forth information technology security requirements deemed acceptable by the federal government for the transmission, processing and storage of criminal history data.

I was fingerprinted once before when I applied for a gun permit; do I have to be fingerprinted again?
Yes. Only fingerprints taken specifically for purposes of the educators’ database are acceptable. However, once you’ve been fingerprinted through the TEA/SBEC system, you will not have to be fingerprinted again in order to be employed in a school setting.

If I move to another school district, will I have to be fingerprinted again?
Once you’ve been fingerprinted and entered into the state educators’ database, you do not have to be fingerprinted again. If you leave your school district, the district will no longer have access to your criminal history records.

If you are a non-certified employee covered by the grandfather clause for staff hired before Jan. 1, 2008, you will have to be fingerprinted only if you move to another school district.

If I have an arrest in my background, may I obtain a copy of the information my district receives from DPS after I’ve been fingerprinted?
ATPE-initiated legislation from 2009 clarifies that a school employee may ask his employer for a copy of the criminal history record information relating to that employee. This new law, enacted through House Bill (HB) 2730, also permits the school district to charge the employee a copying charge not to exceed the actual cost of duplicating the document(s).

Where can I go for more information?

ATPE has worked very hard and will continue our ongoing efforts to ensure that TEA implements the fingerprinting process with as little inconvenience to educators as possible and that the confidentiality of records is appropriately protected by TEA and DPS. If you would like any additional information about the fingerprinting law, please feel free to contact ATPE Governmental Relations. Eligible members who have specific concerns about how a school district might use information obtained through a background check may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department.
  

1Some school districts have their own fingerprinting requirements for employees that predate the statewide requirement under SB 9.

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The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online system, MLSIS.
 

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