Bulletin on the Fingerprinting and Criminal Background Check Program
|Date:||November 15, 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:||Johanna Duncan-Poitier, Deputy Commissioner, Office of Higher Education and the Office of Professions
James A. Kadamus, Deputy Commissioner, Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education
|Subject:||Bulletin on the Fingerprinting and Criminal Background Check Program|
Since the passage of the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education legislation (SAVE) in 2000, the State Education Department (SED) has been working 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 from school districts, BOCES, charter schools and Higher Education institutions and is appreciative of your patience and input as we move forward with more efficient and effective methods to achieve full compliance.
Over the course of the first year of implementation of the SAVE mandates, OSPRA identified several areas where it could improve services to better assist school districts, BOCES, charter schools, and certificate applicants in meeting the requirements. The purpose of this bulletin is to inform you about some of the recent improvements that have been made and to assist you, in cooperation with SED, to fully comply with the law and the regulations. There is important information in this bulletin regarding changes in the procedures for processing fingerprints (Section 3). Please circulate a copy of this bulletin to appropriate personnel within your school district and advise your fingerprinting personnel to download the latest versions of the OSPRA forms for distribution from the OSPRA website.
- OSPRA Website
OSPRA created a comprehensive website to provide information and assistance to covered schools (defined by Regulation as all public schools except the City School District of the City of New York, charter schools and BOCES), applicants for certification, employers, teacher education programs and other interested parties. The website address is: Office of Teaching Initiatives. It contains the relevant laws and regulations, the most recent OSPRA forms for filing, a sample properly completed FBI card, 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. This bulletin, as well as the previously issued memoranda to the field, is also available on the website.
- Overall Compliance
The Department would like to remind all school districts, BOCES and charter schools, that while OSPRA can provide general information and guidance on procedures for implementing the fingerprinting requirements, it can not provide specific legal advice on individual issues. Covered schools are advised to consult their legal counsel on such matters. All such schools must develop their own policies and procedures to ensure that the SAVE mandates are being effectively implemented and that a system of accountability has been utilized to satisfy these requirements. For example, it is the school's responsibility to ensure that anyone who meets the definition of "prospective employee" (which includes employees of contract service providers) as defined in section 87.2(k)(1) of the Commissioner's Regulations and who is not otherwise exempt, has been fingerprinted and has received the appropriate clearance for employment.
Covered schools are also reminded that their staff can receive training to actually take, or "roll" the fingerprints of prospective employees. Performing this function allows the schools to also retain some control over the actual submission of their employee's fingerprints to SED. For more information on receiving training on how to take fingerprints, you can contact the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) directly at (518) 402-2752.
- Card Scanning and New Technology
On December 3, 2002, OSPRA will be implementing a new system for processing fingerprints. This state-of-the-art hardware and software will reduce processing time and enhance overall oversight and efficiency. Instead of forwarding the fingerprint cards to DCJS and the FBI, OSPRA will be scanning the cards and transmitting the digital images of the fingerprints to DCJS and the FBI. The results of the fingerprint background check will then be transmitted back to OSPRA from DCJS and the FBI electronically. This process will result in greatly improved response times to issue clearances for employment. The electronic results will be received by OSPRA within a few days from both DCJS and the FBI instead of the several weeks it now takes.
These technology and system updates will require some adjustments in the way schools and individuals apply for their respective clearances. Effective immediately, it is no longer necessary to submit a green DCJS card with the fingerprint application. Instead, applicants should be submitting two (2) blue FBI cards with each application. The FBI cards must be completely filled out in accordance with the enclosed sample FBI card. In order to submit the scanned fingerprints electronically, OSPRA is required to enter data on all of the fields identified on the sample card. Failure to properly complete the card will result in a rejection of the application. Please carefully review the attached sample card to see the exact information that will be required. All OSPRA forms are being revised to reflect these new requirements. Please check the website periodically to ensure that you have the most recent version of the OSPRA forms for distribution.
A properly completed application will include the following:
- a properly completed OSPRA 101 form (downloaded from the OSPRA website)
- a money order, certified check or district check for $74 payable to the New York State Education Department
- two (2) completely filled out FBI cards (see attached sample FBI card)
- Fingerprint Packet and Dissemination of Materials
Covered schools and BOCES should review their supplies to ensure that they have enough blue FBI cards to meet the new scanning requirements. Covered schools and BOCES may discard the green DCJS cards, because they will no longer be needed for fingerprint processing. As a reminder, covered schools, teacher education programs, contract service providers and other interested parties can download the revised OSPRA forms from the OSPRA website and make sufficient copies for their use. The FBI fingerprint cards and self-addressed postage paid OSPRA envelopes are available at many BOCES and college teacher preparation programs who have 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: OSPRA@mail.nysed.gov.
- Fingerprint Card and Application Rejection
Another new system change being implemented in December by OSPRA is the way fingerprint card rejections are handled. Currently when an individual has their fingerprints rejected by DCJS or the FBI, or when their application is rejected because it is incomplete or the fee is missing, the only notice pertaining to those issues goes to the applicant. When the card scanning system is initiated on December 3, 2002, a copy of the rejection notice that the applicant receives stating the reason for rejection of the application will now be provided to the prospective employer. Reasons for rejection include: incomplete application; incorrect or missing fee; or fingerprint rejection by the FBI or DCJS. This will permit the prospective employer to follow-up directly with the prospective employee on completion of the fingerprint requirement and to work with the individual to correct the problems and to resubmit their fingerprints.
- OSPRA Informational Presentations
OSPRA staff is available to participate in presentations and training with representatives from school districts, BOCES, charter schools, and teacher education programs on the fingerprint program and its requirements. OSPRA investigative and legal staff have participated in conferences and meetings scheduled by various groups throughout the State including BOCES, business officials, health and safety officers, and personnel administrators. If OSPRA is not already on a group's 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 should be made to the OSPRA administrator at OSPRA@mail.nysed.gov.
If you have questions, please contact OSPRA at OSPRA@mail.nysed.gov or by 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 assistance as we work together towards full compliance with the SAVE statute and regulations.