Lawmakers worry about teacher fingerprinting
Topeka A state agency should reconsider fingerprinting 33,000 longtime Kansas public school teachers, a legislative committee recommended.
During a committee meeting Monday, Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, said he was concerned the proposal from the Kansas Department of Education would violate the privacy rights of the teachers.
“This is very Big Brother-ish,” Ward said while discussing the program with Scott Gordon, an education department attorney, during a meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Gordon said the education department wants to take advantage of new Kansas Bureau of Investigation software that automatically notifies the department when someone whose prints are on file has been arrested. He said the fingerprinting would help the department to more quickly identify teachers accused of crimes, especially sex offenses.
In recent years, he said, the public has confronted some districts about why such teachers hadn’t been removed from the classroom sooner.
“The answer was, we didn’t know they’d ever been arrested,” Gordon said.
Some committee members supported the fingerprinting and Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, said she was disturbed that teachers in select “innovative districts” will be exempt from the requirements. Under a law passed last year, the innovative districts are exempt from most state regulations.
Kansas teachers applying for their first license or replacing a lapsed license have been required to be fingerprinted by the KBI and FBI since 2002. But about 33,000 teachers licensed before that year haven’t been fingerprinted. Under the new regulations, those teachers would undergo the fingerprinting and background checks and pay an estimated $50 each to fund it.
Ward suggested that the committee recommend that the department absorb the cost rather than “taxing every teacher.”
“If it’s such a good idea, they should put their money where their mouth is,” Ward said.
The committee rejected the proposal to make the department pay for the fingerprinting but did recommend the education department reconsider its fingerprinting regulation. The state is not required to follow the committee’s recommendation.