Legal issues in student background checks april 11 2011


Published on

This webinar discussed the legal issues involved in performing background checks on college and university students

  • Be the first to comment

Legal issues in student background checks april 11 2011

  1. 1. Student and Volunteer Background Checks in Higher Education Legal Issues and Practical Options for Conducting CBCs on Students and Volunteers.
  2. 2. Presentation Outline <ul><li>Overview of Crime on Campus </li></ul><ul><li>Trends in Student and Volunteer Background Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Common Application </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-disclosure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Types of Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Criminal, Credit, Social Media? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consent Form </li></ul><ul><li>Who Should be Checked </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students: Admitted, Athletes, International, Dormitory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Legal Issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Criminal Background Check (CBC) Compliance Requirements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal, State and Civil Legislation On CBCs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Best Practices”: Comprehensive University CBC Management Policy for Students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Policy & Protocol Development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Liability Issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Negative” Results Delivery Processes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Process and Policy Implications </li></ul>
  3. 3. Total Crime Statistics on University Campuses: 2006-2008* * Source: US Department of Education (Latest Year Data is Available 2009)   Crime Categories 2006 2007 2008 Murder / Non-Negligent Manslaughter 25 66 55 Negligent Manslaughter 0 8 5 Forcible Sex Offense 3,490 3,482 3,287 Non-Forcible Sex Offense 56 62 49 Robbery 4,921 4,985 4,562 Aggravated Assault 5,472 5,234 5,026 Burglary 35,124 33,010 31,851 Motor Vehicle Theft 9,811 8,744 7,465 Arson 1,086 915 825 Total 59,985 56,506 53,125
  4. 4. Trends in Student and Volunteer Background Checks <ul><li>More schools asking about running checks on volunteers and all students (including minors) in all areas – not just “typical” areas </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. students and volunteers working with children or elderly </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Some schools adding language to application forms that authorizes the school to run a criminal background check that can be used after a disciplinary action has occurred. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Authorization is worded to be in effect during the time they are enrolled as a student </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Running checks for students who live in university housing/dorms </li></ul><ul><li>Running checks for athletes prior to being admitted </li></ul><ul><li>Crafting policies to run checks on international students at some point in their association with school. </li></ul><ul><li>Common Application </li></ul><ul><li>Self Disclosure Requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Organizations running checks on volunteers and having volunteers pay for their search </li></ul><ul><li>Running checks on anyone who will have access to University vehicles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Typically an insurance company mandate to run a Motor Vehicle Report on ANYONE who has access to vehicles </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Common Application <ul><li>Online application system now used by over 400 colleges and universities. </li></ul><ul><li>Requires self-disclosure of a disciplinary violation that resulted in an expulsion or suspension or a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor. </li></ul><ul><li>This is a pre-admission request. </li></ul><ul><li>What are students to do if they believe their records to be sealed? Do they self-disclose or not? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Self Disclosure <ul><li>Many Universities are now Requiring Students to Self Disclose to any Criminal History as Part of the Application Process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This provides possible grounds for dismissal of student in the future if Background Check is Performed later on and a Criminal History is Uncovered at that Point in Time </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Consent Form for Running a Background Check <ul><li>Students/Minors </li></ul><ul><li>Dealing with students that are out of high school but still a minor </li></ul><ul><li>Depending on age of applicant 17 and under (or current HS student) you may need the consent of a parent or guardian in order to complete verifications i.e. release employment – school related records and information </li></ul><ul><li>So, running comprehensive checks that include credit, employment, & education information may be difficult </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Careful of language on forms that it does not imply an employee relationship for volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>May need different release forms for different scenarios </li></ul>
  8. 8. Types of Checks <ul><li>Consumer Report- Includes any Information Provided by a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) Bearing on a Consumer’s Credit Worthiness, Credit Standing, Credit Capacity, Character, General Reputation, Personal Characteristics or Mode of Living used to Determine Eligibility for Credit, Insurance, & Employment among other Conditions. Information is culled from Credit Agencies and Criminal Record Depositories </li></ul><ul><li>Investigative Consumer Report – Includes any Information on a Consumer’s Character, General Reputation, Personal Characteristics or Mode of Living Obtained through Personal Interviews with Neighbors, Friends and Associates – Information must Be Verified with Actual Source of Information not from hearsay. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Types of Checks <ul><li>Social Security Verification </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Typical NOT to receive any address history for students ages 18 to even 22/23 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>May not have established an address history </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Will show SS is valid but no additional information </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>May show people that the student shares credit with (roommates, parents) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Camp counselors/summer workers that are minors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Similar issues as above </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Types of Checks <ul><li>Criminal Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Will not have access to juvenile records – those are sealed and (based on state statute) have the potential to be automatically expunged at a specific age (ex. 18 or 22) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limited criminal history available </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Types of Checks <ul><li>Criminal Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Most volunteer hours are spent in youth-related and religious organizations (Bureau of Labor Statistics) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Organizations, especially non-profits, have budget constraints that make it difficult to run comprehensive background checks on all volunteers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>At a minimum, volunteers should be run through a National Criminal Database and Multi-State Sex Offender Registry </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Types of Checks <ul><li>Sex Offender Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If offended as and was convicted as a minor – record will be sealed </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This is the one of the most popular types of checks to run on volunteers, especially those working with at-risk populations such as children, the elderly, and the mentally challenged. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Types of Checks <ul><li>Credit Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>With all credit checks it is important to ask why is a credit report being run for this position – is it a blanket policy or based on criteria of position? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Check your state law – several states have restrictions as to running credit reports for employment – “job relatedness” test – seeing this more and more </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limited report due to age </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Illegal to run on anyone under 18 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Why are you running? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Types of Checks <ul><li>Motor Vehicle Checks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limited history </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If Running checks for employment purposes as defined by FCRA then require one type of release form </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If Running for insurance purposes and not employment (i.e. student groups) then require different release forms than for employment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some insurance policies require MVRs run on anyone operating the organization’s vehicles. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Who is Being Checked? <ul><li>What are Universities Checking with Respect to Students? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student Employees – Currently, Few Universities Perform Comprehensive CBCs on Student Employees but Increasingly these Policies are Changing because of Liability Concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If universities are doing Criminal Checks they may Limit Check to a National Database Check or to a single State-level Search. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some HR administrators are also doing searches of FaceBook, MySpace and other social networking sites to augment personal interview. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Universities Should have a Self-Disclosure Form Requiring Student Employees to Self-disclose any Criminal Behavior in the Past and Explain the Circumstances of the Incident. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Admitted/Incoming Students <ul><li>Incoming Students – Generally, Universities are Not Conducting Checks on Incoming Students </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Conducting CBCs on Incoming Students would reveal very little because Juvenile Records are Sealed. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Trend is Shifting to Conducting Checks on Accuracy of Information Included on Applications such as Volunteer and Employment History, Achievements and Awards, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Increasingly using Social Networking Sites to Augment Standard Admission Process-Potential Issues with using these Sites. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Applications are now Asking Students to Self-Disclose Criminal Past </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The University then needs a Policy for How to Handle “Negative” results </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Students in Programs with certain Licensure Requirements are getting checked before admission into these programs </li></ul>
  17. 17. Graduate Students <ul><li>Graduate Students – Generally, Universities are Not Conducting Criminal Checks on Graduate Students whether Foreign or Domestic </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>These students are often employed by the university as Teaching Assistants so they are in the Classroom and therefore represent a liability to the University </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Applications are now Asking Students to Self-Disclose Criminal Past </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The University then needs a Policy for How to Handle “Negative” results </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Foreign Students Do Not undergo Criminal Checks prior to arrival in United States. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Visa Process only checks Identification against Terrorists Lists. Does not Provide for a Check against any Possible Criminal Records that may exist in Student’s Country of Origin. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Visa Process Does Ask Applicant to Self-Disclose Criminal Past. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Resident Students <ul><li>Students living in University Housing – Generally, Universities are Not Conducting Criminal Checks on those living in dormitories </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Applications are asking students to self-disclose </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Does the university have a higher duty to check students’ backgrounds if they enter into a contract for university housing? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Athletes <ul><li>Athletes – There is a trend towards universities conducting background checks on athletes because they are considered higher profile than typical college student and they are receiving substantial benefits from the university </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some universities are checking all student athletes and some are just checking transfer student athletes </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Legal Issues <ul><li>Checks Generate “Negative” Results so what Can Universities Do? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Schools should adhere to standards set by FCRA even though most of these checks would not be for employment purposes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FCRA holds organizations to highest standard for how they use background check information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FCRA Mandates Types of Records that Cannot be used to Deny Employment such as Arrests, Expunged or Sealed Records. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This is likely to present itself in more cases with Student Employees than with the general population because of the typical age range of students. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually, Only Convictions can be used to Deny Employment and then not all Convictions are Created Equal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Extra Considerations are Often Given to Include Expected Job Duties of Potential Applicant, Dates of Offense, Nature of the Offense and the Accuracy of Employment Application (Request to Self-Disclose?) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Certain States do Not Allow Convictions to be used after a Period of Time (Typically 7 years)- Includes Nevada (all salary levels), California (all salary levels), New York (only if salary is expected to fall below $25,000) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Legal Issues <ul><li>Checks Generate “Negative” Results so what Can Universities Do? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop a Consistent Policy for How to Handle Negative Results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow Student Applicant to Explain Details of the Record(s) Found Rather than Engage in Automatic Termination </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Convene a Standing Committee of Representative University Personnel to review all “Negative” CBC Results to Ensure Consistency and Fairness in Handling of Individual Cases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This could be structured as a Sub-Committee of the larger Standing Committee for the Faculty and Staff Issues that Arise. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Federal-Level Legislation Governing Background Checks <ul><li>Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – Mandated Procedures for Performing CBCs for purposes of obtaining credit, insurance, employment or other purposes authorized under Section 604 [1681b] </li></ul><ul><li>Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - A federal law that protects the privacy of student education records and comes into play in terms of how Employers Handle the Data Involved in Conducting and Evaluating Results from from CBCs. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Legal Issues at State Level <ul><li>Record Retention-How long can we or should we maintain criminal record checks. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>FCRA has their own Standard-”As expeditiously as possible…..” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each state has a different standard so you’ll have to address the record retention issue at your own state level to determine length </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use of Conviction vs. Arrest Information in Employment Decisions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>States regulate how arrest and conviction records are used. Currently 11 states have been pre-empted from following FCRA guidelines on this because they had laws on the books prior to the passage of FCRA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Privacy Considerations </li></ul><ul><li>Potential Defamation Claims (Discrimination Claims) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need Clear Policies and Procedures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to Educate and Provide Ongoing Training about these Issues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Potential Tort Claims-”Foreseeability”: “Knew or should have known” </li></ul><ul><li>How to use Information in the Criminal Complaint or Records-Misuse could lead to Criminal Action </li></ul>
  24. 24. Summary of Liability Issues * <ul><li>If you DO Background Checks: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Disparate Treatment: Disproportionately Applied to Different Campus Groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inappropriate Types of Checks relative to Position (FCRA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mishandling of Negative Results (FCRA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Privacy Violations (State and FERPA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defamation Claims (As a result of Interviews Conducted) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you DON’T use Background Checks: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Negligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Breach of Duty to provide Safe Workplace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OSHA Issues </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. A Suggested Best Practices Approach for Student and Volunteer Background Check Process in Higher Education <ul><li>CBC Policy and Procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct CBCs on All Graduate Students (In Classroom) and Student Employees </li></ul><ul><li>Perform International Criminal Background Checks on Foreign Graduate Student Applicants </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If full foreign criminal checks are not done then at a minimum, may want to consider some sort of probationary status for foreign graduate student applicants and then do domestic criminal county-level checks for a period of 2-3 years after their arrival here in the states. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>At a minimum, conduct a “Most Wanted” search that will identify any Matches against Terrorists’ Watch Lists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At a Minimum, Require Self-disclosure Form for all Admitted Students (Graduate or Undergraduate) and Volunteers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>May want to limit to just convictions imposed in recent 5 year period </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. A Suggested Best Practices Approach for Student Background Check Process in Higher Education <ul><li>CBC Policy and Procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a Defined Post-Results Delivery Process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explicit and Transparent Development of Policies to Deal with Delivery of “Negative” CBC Results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider A Committee Composed of University Community (Rather than One Single Individual) to Decide on “Go-No Go” Decision involving “Negative” Results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Should not have a black and white policy to exclude all individuals with certain type of “crime” on their record. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>There should always be opportunity to explain prior circumstances </li></ul></ul></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>For More Information Please Contact: </li></ul><ul><li>Stephanie Hughes, Ph.D. </li></ul><ul><li>RiskAware, LLC. </li></ul><ul><li>& </li></ul><ul><li>Northern Kentucky University </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>877-552-8907 ext .102 </li></ul><ul><li>Chuck F. Hertlein, Jr. </li></ul><ul><li>Partner </li></ul><ul><li>Dinsmore & Shohl </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>513-977-8315 </li></ul>