Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/03/2004 03:23 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 179 - CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS/TEACHERS                                                                                  
Number 2153                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  final order of  business would                                                               
be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO.  179(FIN), "An Act relating to criminal                                                               
history records and background checks;  allowing persons to teach                                                               
in the  public schools for up  to five months without  a teaching                                                               
certificate if the  person has applied for a  certificate and the                                                               
application  has  not  been  acted  upon  by  the  Department  of                                                               
Education  and Early  Development  due to  a  delay in  receiving                                                               
criminal  history  records;  allowing teacher  certification  for                                                               
certain  persons based  on a  criminal  history background  check                                                               
without fingerprints; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
Number 2163                                                                                                                     
ZACH  WARWICK, Staff  to Senator  Gene  Therriault, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  sponsor,  presented SB  179  on  behalf of  Senator                                                               
Therriault.   He relayed that the  concept of SB 179  was brought                                                               
forth  by  a constituent  who  was  a  retired teacher  that  had                                                               
decided to  start teaching again  and was required to  go through                                                               
the process  of getting another  teaching certificate.   In order                                                               
to obtain  a teaching certificate, a  criminal history background                                                               
check,  through both  state and  federal government  agencies, is                                                               
required .  The problem  this constituent faced, however, is that                                                               
over the  course of teaching  for many  years, she has  worn away                                                               
her  fingerprints.     Currently,  there  are   approximately  30                                                               
individuals  attempting to  get  teaching  certificates who  face                                                               
this same problem - their fingerprints  are worn out to the point                                                               
where they  can no longer  be used  to obtain a  criminal history                                                               
background check.                                                                                                               
MR. WARWICK said that  the goal of SB 179 is  to create a process                                                               
by  which school  administrators and  the state  will be  assured                                                               
that such  a person  has received some  form of  criminal history                                                               
background check.  He elaborated:                                                                                               
     What it would do is,  if you rolled two subsequent sets                                                                    
     of prints and they were  determined to be ... illegible                                                                    
     due to  ... poor quality [of  fingerprint ridges], that                                                                    
       they would give them a social-security- and a name-                                                                      
     based background check so [as] to give us some kind of                                                                     
MR.  WARWICK relayed  that because  results of  background checks                                                               
are commonly delayed and not  available within the current three-                                                               
month  statutory  timeframe,  the Senate  Health,  Education  and                                                               
Social Services Standing Committee changed  the period of time in                                                               
which  a person  may teach  without a  teaching certificate  from                                                               
three months  to five months  if the delay  is due solely  to the                                                               
fact that the  U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)  has not provided                                                               
the  results within  the  initial three  months.   So  currently,                                                               
under  the  bill, if  such  a  delay  occurs, the  Department  of                                                               
Education  and  Early  Development  (DEED)  can  grant  a  60-day                                                               
extension of the original three-month period.                                                                                   
Number 2257                                                                                                                     
MR.  WARWICK explained  that currently,  without this  extension,                                                               
should  the DOJ  delay in  returning  the results  of a  criminal                                                               
background  check,  the   teacher  automatically  looses  his/her                                                               
teaching certificate.  To get  around this problem, a majority of                                                               
schools simply  hire such persons  as substitute teachers  for an                                                               
additional  three months  while waiting  for the  results of  the                                                               
background check.   The provisions  of CSSB 179(FIN),  in effect,                                                               
shorten the  total time  to five  months in  those circumstances.                                                               
He  mentioned that  the DEED  has  informed him  that it  doesn't                                                               
intend to make excessive use of  the extension, and was, in fact,                                                               
hesitant at first to have it included in the bill.                                                                              
MR. WARWICK relayed  that the language in all but  Sections 8 and                                                               
10 of the bill were suggested  by the Department of Public Safety                                                               
(DPS) and the Department of Law  (DOL).  One of the problems that                                                               
SB 179  is intended to address  is the fact that  Alaska statutes                                                               
pertaining  to  criminal history  background  checks  are not  in                                                               
compliance with federal  law.  For example,  federal law requires                                                               
that  state statute  list  all occupations  for  which the  state                                                               
allows  criminal  history  background  checks.    Section  7  now                                                               
includes that  language.  Additionally, the  bill's drafters went                                                               
through  the  other  sections  of  the bill  to  ensure  that  it                                                               
includes   all  necessary   conforming  language,   for  example,                                                               
language regarding the  fees that are required to be  paid by the                                                               
department in order to get a criminal history background check.                                                                 
CHAIR McGUIRE asked  what kind of liability  the department would                                                               
face should the person who  is granted an extension under Section                                                               
8 commit  a crime against a  child during that extension  and the                                                               
criminal background  check ultimately came back  showing that the                                                               
person had a known record of such behavior.                                                                                     
MR.  WARWICK declined  to answer  that  question, and  reiterated                                                               
what  currently happens  when there  is  a delay  in getting  the                                                               
results of a criminal history background check from the DOJ.                                                                    
TAPE 04-73, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2397                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE suggested  that instead  of providing  for a  two-                                                               
month   extension,  the   bill  could   just  allow   a  person's                                                               
preexisting fingerprint sample to be  used if the results are not                                                               
back from the DOJ within the initial three-month time period.                                                                   
MR.  WARWICK indicated  that the  person  would then  have to  go                                                               
through  the  application process  all  over  again, adding  that                                                               
currently  under  the  bill,  "it's  at  the  discretion  of  the                                                               
commissioner of [the  DEED] to decide whether  this person should                                                               
be getting this extension.                                                                                                      
CHAIR McGUIRE  said she doesn't  have a problem with  requiring a                                                               
person to go  through the application process again  and just use                                                               
a preexisting fingerprint  sample.  She relayed  that her concern                                                               
centers on the  fact that under the bill as  currently written, a                                                               
person  would remain  in  the classroom  for  another two  months                                                               
without  the department  knowing  the results  of the  background                                                               
check.   She suggested that they  narrow the bill down  by giving                                                               
the  department  the  discretion  to  allow  use  of  preexisting                                                               
fingerprint samples and paperwork in the reapplication process.                                                                 
MR. WARWICK  relayed that he is  not that familiar with  the nuts                                                               
and bolts of  the application process and didn't  have a specific                                                               
answer  as  to why  such  a  suggestion  might  or might  not  be                                                               
feasible.    He suggested  that  the  DEED's application  experts                                                               
could better address this issue.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG pointed  out, however,  that Mr.  Warwick has                                                               
mentioned that many school districts  are simply hiring people as                                                               
substitute  teachers   in  order   to  get  around   the  problem                                                               
engendered by the  current three-month deadline.  If  such is the                                                               
case, those  people are  already being allowed  to remain  in the                                                               
schools and so why not grant the extension.                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE   reminded  members  that  in   legislation  which                                                               
recently passed the  House, there is a provision  that requires a                                                               
person to have  submitted fingerprints to the  department for use                                                               
in a criminal history background check  and to have been found by                                                               
the  department to  be suitable  for  employment in  order to  be                                                               
eligible for a  limited teaching certificate.   She asked whether                                                               
a limited teaching certificate is  what a substitute teacher must                                                               
Number 2203                                                                                                                     
MR.  WARWICK  suggested that  the  DEED  could best  answer  that                                                               
question.  Regarding his earlier  comment that schools hire those                                                               
waiting  for  the  results of  background  checks  as  substitute                                                               
teachers, he  added that some  schools reclassify such  people so                                                               
as to allow  them to work temporarily in a  capacity that doesn't                                                               
require  a  background  check.   He  opined,  however,  that  the                                                               
current practices  surrounding this  issue are disruptive  to the                                                               
CHAIR McGUIRE noted  that a few years ago,  she'd been approached                                                               
by a constituent of hers  whose daughter had been sexually abused                                                               
by  a volunteer  athletic  coach and  her  constituent felt  very                                                               
strongly  that  all  volunteers who  have  close  and  continuing                                                               
contact with  children ought to have  criminal history background                                                               
checks.   A task  force was convened  over the  following interim                                                               
for the  purpose of addressing  that issue, and she  relayed that                                                               
she'd heard compelling arguments  for requiring background checks                                                               
on such people, and said she  has grave concerns about allowing a                                                               
teacher to stay  in the classroom for another  two months without                                                               
knowing what the  results of a criminal  history background check                                                               
will  be.     "Putting  them  into  a   clerical  position  seems                                                               
absolutely  appropriate to  me  because [then]  they  are not  in                                                               
close and  personal contact, with  that power, if you  will, over                                                               
the young people that they're  in close proximity to," she added.                                                               
Section 8 concerns her a great deal, she concluded.                                                                             
MR.  WARWICK  noted  that the  Matanuska-Susitna  Borough  School                                                               
District has relayed  to him that over the past  12 years, it has                                                               
never had  an applicant's criminal history  background check come                                                               
back with an  indication that the applicant should  not be hired.                                                               
He  offered  his belief  that  it  is  much  easier to  find  out                                                               
something about  a person by checking  his/her employment history                                                               
than it is via doing a criminal history background check.                                                                       
Number 2101                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked for clarification:                                                                                    
     There's  the background  check  that  says whether  you                                                                    
     have  a prior  conviction, right?   And  ... you  don't                                                                    
     need fingerprints  for that, is my  understanding - you                                                                    
     ...   deal   with   the    FBI   [Federal   Bureau   of                                                                    
     Investigation],  you   deal  with  [the   Alaska  State                                                                    
     Troopers], we  do [what's known  as] an  [Alaska Public                                                                    
     Safety Information Network (APSIN)]  check, right?  And                                                                    
     that should  come pretty  immediately; that  should say                                                                    
     whether you  have any convictions for  anything. ... Am                                                                    
     I right  that we require  that before we  hire anybody?                                                                    
     Am I right about that?                                                                                                     
MR. WARWICK indicated that he didn't know.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GARA continued:                                                                                                  
     So at a minimum we need  to make sure we're doing that,                                                                    
     right?  You can't start  until we have the results from                                                                    
     your  criminal  history   check.    The  fingerprinting                                                                    
     check,  my understanding  is, that  helps us  determine                                                                    
     whether  your  fingerprints  match  any  sort  of  open                                                                    
     criminal investigation:  there's  been a spree of child                                                                    
     molestations somewhere,  you've given  your fingerprint                                                                    
     check,  and that  helps us  determine  whether you  are                                                                    
     actually a suspect in a pending, open case. ...                                                                            
     So I'm  looking at  this letter  from the  [Young Men's                                                                    
     Christian  Association  (YMCA)],  and  this  one  talks                                                                    
     about  somebody  who  was  [almost]  hired  who  had  a                                                                    
     significant criminal  conviction history.  And  I think                                                                    
     that gets resolved  as long as we have  the [APSIN] and                                                                    
     out-of-state criminal  background check before  we hire                                                                    
     somebody, and  I think a  fingerprint check might  be a                                                                    
     different  issue.   I just  wanted to  bring that  [to]                                                                    
     everybody's  attention  as  we ask  questions;  they're                                                                    
     both important, but that's where my confusion lies.                                                                        
Number 2014                                                                                                                     
KEVIN  SWEENEY, Special  Assistant, Office  of the  Commissioner,                                                               
Department  of  Education  and  Early  Development  (DEED),  with                                                               
regard to Chair McGuire's concern  about the two-month extension,                                                               
said that  the DEED had  the same concern  about a bill  that was                                                               
[introduced] last year.  He went on to say:                                                                                     
     The  way  the procedure  is  now,  someone applies  for                                                                    
     their  certificate  and  they're  given  a  conditional                                                                    
     [teaching]  certificate once  we get  their application                                                                    
     in and  everything's in  order, and  we send  out their                                                                    
     fingerprints  to the  FBI and  the [DPS]  here for  the                                                                    
     background  check.   There  was  backlog  in the  past,                                                                    
     particularly from  ... our [DPS], in  getting them back                                                                    
     in time,  and so we  did have a considerable  amount of                                                                    
     teachers out  there ..., where  the three  months would                                                                    
     come  up,  and the  way  the  law is  written,  they're                                                                    
     technically not allowed  in a classroom.   I think what                                                                    
     the  department  then  did  was  reissue  them  another                                                                    
     conditional  certificate, so  they  were given  another                                                                    
     three  months extension  anyway.    I'm fairly  certain                                                                    
     that's the case. ...                                                                                                       
     We  had a  concern with  just ...  changing that  three                                                                    
     months  to five  months; what  we wanted  to do  is see                                                                    
     them be more  efficient. ... Rather than  say there's a                                                                    
     problem out  there so let's  change it to  five months,                                                                    
     let's  address the  problem and  get  the results  back                                                                    
     quicker  so that  we  know we  don't  have teachers  in                                                                    
     classrooms  that have  criminal  ... history.   And  at                                                                    
     some  point  last  year,  our  [DPS]  went  to  a  more                                                                    
     automated system,  and the  case now  [is that]  we are                                                                    
     getting  our history  back in,  I think,  about six  to                                                                    
     eight weeks from [the DPS]  and even less time from the                                                                    
     I know  we are  getting them back  now in  an efficient                                                                    
     manner, so that I don't really  see us, at least in the                                                                    
     present  case, using  this  [two-month] extension  very                                                                    
     often  because of  the fact  that  we're getting  those                                                                    
     records back.  And the  way that that's written, we did                                                                    
     have a concern that we wanted  to make sure that it was                                                                    
     up to  the discretion  of the  department because  of a                                                                    
     backlog at [the DOJ or  the DPS], not just an automatic                                                                    
     [two-months] because perhaps  somebody waited until the                                                                    
     last minute:  they'd been in  a classroom for two and a                                                                    
     half months  and waited  to the  last minute  to apply.                                                                    
     So, as long as it's up  to the department to be able to                                                                    
     determine  that  ... there  is  actually  some sort  of                                                                    
     backlog, we  didn't have a  major concern with  a [two-                                                                    
     month] extension.                                                                                                          
Number 1903                                                                                                                     
MR. SWEENEY continued:                                                                                                          
     As far  as [Representative Gara's]  question [regarding                                                                    
     whether]  ... there's  a background  check ...,  I know                                                                    
     ... I  have had sort  of the same concern  because, the                                                                    
     way  it's happening  now is,  ... teachers  are getting                                                                    
     another  conditional  certificate, another  conditional                                                                    
     certificate,  and sometimes  they've resubmitted  their                                                                    
     fingerprints seven or  eight times.  Which  is why this                                                                    
     bill originally  came, [so]  that we  could go  to that                                                                    
     name-based check instead of the  fingerprints.  What we                                                                    
     wanted to  see was maybe  the second they  submit their                                                                    
     fingerprints, if they come  back as being non-readable,                                                                    
     that  they instantly  institute that  name-based check,                                                                    
     rather than wait  for a second go-around.   But I think                                                                    
     that the way ... the rules  are written by the FBI, ...                                                                    
     you can't do that. ...                                                                                                     
     And [with regard  to] Section 10, which  deals with the                                                                    
     non-legible  fingerprints  and   the  people  with  the                                                                    
     physical disability, we have  a regulation on the books                                                                    
     now  that accomplishes  basically the  same thing;  our                                                                    
     language  is a  bit  different in  that [when  compared                                                                    
     with]  Section  10  [subsection  (j)(1)  and  (2)],  we                                                                    
     require  that the  teacher  have written  documentation                                                                    
     from  a physician.   And  in doing  that, we  wanted to                                                                    
     [ensure]  that there  was some  sort of  check to  make                                                                    
     sure that there was, in fact,  a skin condition.  And I                                                                    
     guess [we've] found  out since then that  the [DPS] and                                                                    
     the  FBI  actually do  have  the  people that  are  the                                                                    
     experts in being  able to look at  a fingerprint itself                                                                    
     ...  to determine  ... [whether]  the  person has  skin                                                                    
     condition or ... [whether] it's just smudged.                                                                              
MR. SWEENEY concluded:                                                                                                          
     So I think  we ... will change our  regulations if this                                                                    
     law passes,  to reflect  the changes here,  and remove,                                                                    
     at least from [the  regulation similar to paragraph 2],                                                                    
     the requirement  from the  physician.   I think  in ...                                                                    
     the  first   instance,  where  it's  somebody   with  a                                                                    
     physical   disability,   meaning    they   don't   have                                                                    
     fingerprints,  ... since  the  [DPS] would  have to  be                                                                    
     making  that determination  from  afar, they  obviously                                                                    
     can't see the  person, ... we would ...  still leave in                                                                    
     our regulation ... [requiring]  a physician's note that                                                                    
     says  ... the  person  doesn't  have ...  fingerprints.                                                                    
     But I think that's a rare case.                                                                                            
Number 1799                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  asked Mr.  Sweeney, then, whether  he even  sees a                                                               
need for  those sections  of the  bill.   Is there  something the                                                               
DEED can't accomplish via regulations?                                                                                          
MR.  SWEENEY opined  that all  Section 10  would do  would be  to                                                               
match  statute up  somewhat with  current  regulations; the  DEED                                                               
would   then  make   appropriate   conforming   changes  to   its                                                               
regulations.   In response to  further questions, he said  that a                                                               
wide  variety of  organizations and  entities do  fingerprinting;                                                               
that  it  would be  nice  if  all  fingerprints were  taken  with                                                               
electronic  fingerprint  scanners;  and   that  the  DEED  wanted                                                               
assurance  that when  fingerprints  are illegible  it isn't  just                                                               
because they are smudged.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  whether criminal  history checks  are                                                               
done  before someone  is  hired, offering  his  belief that  such                                                               
checks should only take a few days.                                                                                             
MR.  SWEENEY   offered  that  different  school   districts  have                                                               
different policies  regarding that  issue.  Some  districts don't                                                               
allow a  person to be in  a classroom until the  criminal history                                                               
background check is  completed even if it takes  the entire three                                                               
months.  Some districts do  their own, separate, criminal history                                                               
background  check,  and  some  districts   rely  on  the  state's                                                               
background check.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA   said  he   hopes  that   criminal  history                                                               
background  checks   are  not  delayed   until  the   results  of                                                               
fingerprint tests are returned.                                                                                                 
MR. SWEENEY  suggested that the DPS  ought to be able  to confirm                                                               
that point.   What the DEED wants  from SB 179 is  the ability to                                                               
institute a  name-based search immediately upon  finding out that                                                               
a person's  fingerprints are illegible.   He offered  his belief,                                                               
however, that the  FBI won't do a name-based  check until certain                                                               
requirements are met.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  reiterating his  belief that  conviction and                                                               
arrest records are available very  quickly, and therefore he does                                                               
not see any reason to delay doing a check for those.                                                                            
CHAIR  McGUIRE  said  that  according  to  her  understanding  of                                                               
[current statute], a  person can be in the classroom  for as long                                                               
as  three  months  without  the results  of  a  criminal  history                                                               
background check  being known.  Additionally,  Section 8 provides                                                               
for a two-month extension to that  time period.  She remarked, "I                                                               
wonder if  what we're doing is  saying that we're relying  on the                                                               
[DOJ]  for   everything,  including  just  that   basic  criminal                                                               
The committee took an at-ease from 4:30 p.m. to 4:40 p.m.                                                                       
CHAIR McGUIRE noted that members  have in their packet a position                                                               
statement from  the Anchorage School  District (ASD)  which reads                                                               
in part:  "The Anchorage  School District does a local background                                                               
check,  but  the  national  check  may take  3-4  months."    She                                                               
mentioned  the possibility  of altering  the bill  such that  the                                                               
proposed two-month  extension would  be limited to  just national                                                               
criminal history background checks.                                                                                             
Number 1464                                                                                                                     
CYNDY  CURRAN, Teacher  Education &  Certification, Teaching  and                                                               
Learning Support,  Department of Education and  Early Development                                                               
(DEED), offered to answer questions.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  whether  state law  requires that  at                                                               
least the criminal conviction and  arrest record are known before                                                               
hiring a teacher.                                                                                                               
MS.  CURRAN replied,  "When a  teacher applies  for certification                                                               
and  we send  the  fingerprint  card to  the  [DPS],  we get  the                                                               
results of the background check  when it's completed - there's no                                                               
preliminary anything that's done with that."                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA   surmised,  then,   that  in   cases  where                                                               
fingerprints  cannot  be  read,  the  DEED  is  not  getting  the                                                               
remaining results of  the background check "in  advance of that."                                                               
Instead, all the results are arriving at the same time later on.                                                                
MS.  CURRAN concurred,  and clarified  that  if the  fingerprints                                                               
cannot be  read, the DEED  is notified by the  DPS or FBI  and in                                                               
turn notifies  the applicant  that he/she  needs to  resubmit the                                                               
fingerprint card.   She said that  if there are no  problems or a                                                               
huge backlog at the agency  performing the check, the process can                                                               
take about  three months.   If an  applicant has to  redo his/her                                                               
fingerprints, the  DEED issues a conditional  certificate as long                                                               
as another set of fingerprints  have been submitted.  In response                                                               
to further questions,  she reiterated that the DEED  does not get                                                               
anything back  from the FBI or  the DPS in advance  of a complete                                                               
criminal history background check,  which includes the results of                                                               
the fingerprint  check; explained that  the DEED only  deals with                                                               
the teaching certification process, which  enables a person to be                                                               
considered for  employment; and mentioned that  individual school                                                               
districts have there own policies  regarding the actual hiring of                                                               
teachers,   and  may   institute  their   own  criminal   history                                                               
background checks.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked, "And one  of the things that they need                                                               
to prove to  you before they get a certificate  is that they have                                                               
no serious prior convictions of serious felonies, right?"                                                                       
MS. CURRAN said that is correct.                                                                                                
Number 1217                                                                                                                     
DIANE SCHENKER,  Criminal Justice Planner, Division  of Statewide                                                               
Services,  Department  of Public  Safety  (DPS),  in response  to                                                               
questions,  said  that  state  law  allows  anyone  who's  hiring                                                               
someone that  will be  working with children  to do  a name-based                                                               
check for criminal history in  Alaska through APSIN.  Such cannot                                                               
be done for  a national criminal history  check, however, because                                                               
federal  law  requires  [fingerprints]  before a  record  can  be                                                               
checked for  employment licensing purposes.   She relayed  that a                                                               
check  via  APSIN  for  employment  licensing  purposes  wouldn't                                                               
provide  any  out-of-state  information,  but  that  APSIN  could                                                               
provide a record regarding a  person's criminal history in Alaska                                                               
within a matter  of days.  She noted that  any deviation from the                                                               
current process  of checking a person's  criminal history through                                                               
the  federal  system  for  employment  licensing  purposes  would                                                               
require a change in federal rules.                                                                                              
MS. SCHENKER,  in response to  further questions,  explained that                                                               
when  the DEED  sends  the DPS  the fingerprint  card  - and  not                                                               
before  - the  DPS starts  the  process of  obtaining a  person's                                                               
state   and  federal   criminal   history   records;  once   that                                                               
information is  gathered, it is  forwarded onto the DEED  so that                                                               
the DEED  may complete  the certification  process.   She relayed                                                               
that the  turnaround time for  criminal history records  has been                                                               
reduced to about 3 weeks.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM said  he is  disturbed by  the concept  that                                                               
while the DEED is waiting  for the results of a fingerprint-based                                                               
criminal  history  check,  a  person  could  be  working  in  the                                                               
classroom  without even  a cursory,  name-based background  check                                                               
being performed.                                                                                                                
MS. SCHENKER pointed out, however,  that a person's court records                                                               
are available  to the public  via the Internet, and  that [school                                                               
districts] can  get a name-based  check done through APSIN  for a                                                               
$20 fee.  She mentioned that she  would follow up on the issue of                                                               
possibly seeking a change to the federal rules.                                                                                 
CHAIR  McGUIRE  asked  what  terminology should  be  used  if  an                                                               
amendment were made to institute a name-based check.                                                                            
MS. SCHENKER said, "We refer to it  as just a check of the record                                                               
that is based on identification other than fingerprints."                                                                       
The committee took an at-ease from 4:59 p.m. to 5:04 p.m.                                                                       
Number 0453                                                                                                                     
LARRY  WIGET,  Executive   Director,  Public  Affairs,  Anchorage                                                               
School District (ASD), offered the following:                                                                                   
     The  Anchorage  School  District   does  do  [a]  state                                                                    
     background  check  on  teachers  before  ...  they  are                                                                    
     placed  in  the  classroom.     And  it  has  been  our                                                                    
     experience [that] a national  background check may take                                                                    
     longer  than  ...  three  months,  so  we  support  the                                                                    
     extension  of [an  additional  two  months] beyond  the                                                                    
     three  months.    That's  based  on  some  very  strict                                                                    
     criteria I see  written in the law under  Section 8 and                                                                    
     that's with  ... written permission  of the [DEED].   I                                                                    
     don't know  the specifics of  the exact time  lately, I                                                                    
     know  [that]   in  the  last   couple  of   years  ...,                                                                    
     background  checks have  been  taking  longer than  ...                                                                    
     three months  to get to  us, and  we just want  to make                                                                    
     sure  that we  have options  available to  us [for  the                                                                    
     teacher],  having cleared  [a] local  background check,                                                                    
     to  remain   in  the  classroom  while   we're  looking                                                                    
     [indisc. - background noise]. ...                                                                                          
     The   Anchorage  School   District  ...   supports  the                                                                    
     additional time  for a national check  to be completed,                                                                    
     and that's only ...  with the written extension granted                                                                    
     by the  [DEED].  We  do our own  local/state background                                                                    
     check ... before we put  people into the classroom, and                                                                    
     while  we're waiting  for those  records to  come back,                                                                    
     sometimes  it's  been  taking  longer  than  the  three                                                                    
     months,  and that  what's precipitated  cause for  this                                                                    
     section to  be added to  the law  - it has  been taking                                                                    
     longer,  in cases,  to get  [a  fingerprint] ...  check                                                                    
     back from the FBI.                                                                                                         
CHAIR McGUIRE indicated  that the committee would  be holding the                                                               
bill over,  and asked  Mr. Warwick  to relay  to the  sponsor the                                                               
issues raised  and find  out which changes  the sponsor  would be                                                               
amenable to.                                                                                                                    
Number 0071                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CARL GATTO, Alaska  State Legislature, opined that                                                               
the  goal [of  SB 179]  is  to keep  child molesters  out of  the                                                               
classroom.  He  relayed that the school districts he  has been in                                                               
contact  with do  "an  individual check"  while  waiting for  the                                                               
results of the fingerprint-based check.                                                                                         
TAPE 04-74, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  said that according to  a conversation he'd                                                               
had  with the  human  resource manager  of the  Matanuska-Susitna                                                               
School District, not once in eight  years has a person who's been                                                               
approved to work  in the classroom while waiting  for the results                                                               
of a  fingerprint-based background  check had those  results come                                                               
back indicating that  he/she should not be in the  classroom.  He                                                               
offered  his  belief that  the  current  time constraints  create                                                               
situations that  are disruptive to  the classroom; that  the bill                                                               
will make for  better education; and that the  main problem stems                                                               
from delays at  the federal level.  He  suggested that purchasing                                                               
electronic  fingerprint scanners  could be  another step  towards                                                               
protecting children,  but until such  is done, the  bill provides                                                               
an intermediate solution.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  asked how often state  background checks are                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said he did not know.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  indicated  that  he  would  be  willing  to                                                               
consider making a  statutory requirement that a  person show that                                                               
he/she  has had  a  statewide criminal  history background  check                                                               
conducted within the preceding five years.                                                                                      
Number 0472                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO pointed  out,  however, that  a person  can                                                               
change, and thus  requiring evidence that a  background check was                                                               
conducted within  the past  five years will  not ensure  that the                                                               
person hasn't  done something  recently.   He offered  his belief                                                               
that SB 179 will be helpful.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  offered his  belief that  a teacher  must be                                                               
recertified every  five years, and that  this involves conducting                                                               
a criminal history background check.                                                                                            
[SB 179 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects