Regents Action on New Regulations Implementing the Legislative Fingerprinting Mandates
|Date:||March 12, 2002|
District Superintendents, Chief School Officers of Public School Districts, Teacher Education Contact Persons, School Personnel Officers, Charter School Principals/Directors, Other Interested Parties
|From:||Charles C. Mackey, Jr|
|Subject:||Regents Action on New Regulations Implementing the Legislative Fingerprinting Mandates|
BULLETIN ON THE FINGERPRINTING AND CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK PROGRAM
Since the passage of the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education legislation (SAVE), the State Education Department (SED) has been working diligently to ensure that the mandates imposed by SAVE are being implemented in a timely and efficient manner. SED created the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability (OSPRA) to manage these initiatives and assume responsibility for the fingerprinting and criminal background check program. OSPRA has received tremendous cooperation in these efforts and is appreciative of all your patience and input as it moves forward towards more efficient and effective methods to achieve full compliance.
After six months of operations, OSPRA has been able to identify several areas where it can improve services to better assist school districts, BOCES, charter schools, and certificate applicants in meeting their requirements. Towards that end, OSPRA will be issuing periodic "bulletins" to assist you, in cooperation with SED, to fully comply with the law and the regulations.
I. OSPRA Website
OSPRA created a comprehensive website to provide information and assistance to covered schools, applicants for certification, employers, teacher education programs and other interested parties. The website address is: www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/ospra. It contains the relevant laws and regulations, the most recent OSPRA forms for filing, frequently asked questions (FAQs), special information for individuals who were previously fingerprinted by the New York City Board of Education (NYCBOE), a chart describing who must be fingerprinted and other critical information and updates.
II. Requests for Conditional Clearance
"Conditional Clearances" were not included in the original SAVE mandates. They were added when the Legislature amended the provisions in August through Chapter 147 of the Laws of 2001. To effectively implement these changes in a manner that best served the needs of the covered schools, OSPRA assumed that any application for Clearance for Employment would also have requested a Conditional Clearance for Employment, had the revised OSPRA form(s) been available. Accordingly, OSPRA permitted covered schools to use the original forms developed at the inception of the fingerprinting program rather than recalling them and issuing new ones that contained a specific request for a Conditional Clearance. However, because the law specifically requires a covered school to request a Conditional Clearance, OSPRA has since revised the forms and is requiring that the new forms be used for all applications submitted after April 1, 2002. Therefore, if a covered school would like OSPRA to issue a Conditional Clearance for a prospective employee, it must check the appropriate box in the relevant section of the revised OSPRA 101 and 102 forms. All revised OSPRA forms are now available on the OSPRA website.
III. Contract Service Providers
Effective immediately, contract service providers will no longer receive copies of the Clearance for Employment. Pursuant to the SAVE law and regulations, Clearances for Employment will only be sent to the prospective employee and the covered school(s) in which the employee will be placed as indicated on the OSPRA 101 and 102 forms. Clearances were issued to contract service providers during initial implementation phases of the SAVE mandates in order to accommodate the providers and individuals at those early stages.
IV. Notification of Applicants for Clearance for Employment
As of February 8, 2002, OSPRA began sending a copy of the Conditional Clearance for Employment to the prospective employee as well as to the covered school. Previous to this adjustment, only a Full Clearance for Employment was provided to both the prospective employee and the covered school; a Conditional Clearance was only provided to the covered school as the basis for a Conditional Appointment.
V. Notification of Applicants for Clearance for Certification
Applicants for certification will not receive a separate notification from OSPRA indicating that their background check is clear. When all of the other requirements for certification have been met, the Office of Teaching will issue the appropriate teaching certificate. When the applicant receives his or her certificate, he or she will know that the background check was clear. To avoid the chance of a delay in issuing a certificate due to a fingerprinting clearance, applicants for certification may submit their completed fingerprinting packet to OSPRA three to four months prior to submission of their certificate application. If an applicant for certification is already employed in a school district, charter school or BOCES, at the time they submit their fingerprint packet, he or she will also have to be cleared for employment. The applicant will not have to be fingerprinted twice, but the prospective employer should complete the appropriate section on the OSPRA 101 Consent form so that the applicant may be cleared for employment, in addition to certification. In those instances the applicant will receive a separate Clearance for Employment issued by OSPRA.
VI. Disclosure and Status Checks
Because of the confidentiality requirements imposed by the SAVE legislation, OSPRA is constrained to provide only basic procedural information to a covered school, that is whether the prospective employee's fingerprints have been received by OSPRA and are being processed. A prospective employee or a certificate applicant may, however, contact OSPRA directly and receive more details on the status of their application. Covered schools can and should maintain close contact with their prospective employee, conditional appointee, and/or emergency conditional appointee to ascertain the status of their fingerprint application.
VII. Fingerprint Packet and Dissemination of Materials
As of April 1, 2002, OSPRA will no longer bulk supply individual school districts with fingerprint materials. Covered schools, teacher education programs, contract service providers and other interested parties must download the revised OSPRA forms from the OSPRA website and make sufficient copies for their use. The fingerprint cards and self-addressed postage paid OSPRA envelopes are available at many BOCES and college teacher preparation programs who have graciously agreed to assist OSPRA in the statewide dissemination of these materials by distributing them to their component districts and graduates. Distributors should keep in close contact with OSPRA to make sure that they have an adequate supply of cards and envelopes. Distributors may place orders for supplies with OSPRA via email at OSPRA@mail.nysed.gov.
The Board of Regents at its March 2002 meeting will be discussing proposed amendments to Part 87 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The amendments implement Chapter 380 of the Laws of 2001 that permit the exchange of criminal history records of certain individuals, upon their authorization, between SED and the New York City Board of Education (NYCBOE). These statutory changes are already in effect. Individuals who have been fingerprinted by the NYCBOE since July 1, 1990 and who need a Clearance for Employment and/or Certification will not need to be fingerprinted again. OSPRA has created a form (OSPRA 104) that applicable individuals can complete in order to have his or her criminal history record forwarded to SED. Detailed instructions about this process are included the OSPRA website under "Special Information Relating to NYC." The proposed regulations are also available on the OSPRA website. The Board of Regents is expected to act on the amendments at its April meeting with an effective date of May 16, 2002.
IX. OSPRA Informational Presentations
OSPRA staff is looking forward to interacting with representatives from school districts, BOCES, charter schools, and teacher education programs. OSPRA anticipates participating in conferences and meetings scheduled by various groups throughout the State including business officials, health and safety officers, and personnel administrators. If OSPRA is not already on your meeting agenda, representatives may contact OSPRA to make arrangements for presentations and participation of OSPRA staff. OSPRA will also provide individual training and informational presentations upon request at your school, BOCES, or regional location. Requests for such a session should be made as soon as possible to the OSPRA administrator at OSPRA@mail.nysed.gov.
If you have any further questions, please contact OSPRA at OSPRA@mail.nysed.gov or phone at 518-473-2998. Updated information and developments will be forwarded to you periodically through these bulletins which will also be posted on the OSPRA website. Thank you again for your cooperation and compliance as we work together towards full compliance of these critical mandates.