In recent news about student background screening, the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register reported that a proposed bill would allow colleges and universities in West Virginia to conduct criminal background checks on students who live, or apply to live, in on-campus housing. What makes this bill different from others is that this bill “would allow students – at their own expense – to request their school perform a background check on another student or potential student.”
Under the bill, the results of an investigation would be kept confidential, unless the student grants permission or in the case of a court order.
Running background checks on college students who apply to live in student housing is being done in other states, such as Texas (click here to read our blog on Texas student background checks). Lawmakers in Texas cited safety as the reason for enacting the law, and it appears that lawmakers in West Virginia also seek to protect people on campus from potential crime. But a sticky aspect of the bill is that of students being able to request other students undergo a background check. A major concern cited in the article was made by John Davis, executive vice president and general counsel for West Liberty University, who thinks that “it could open the system to frivolous requests and even harassment by students.”
We’ve stated in previous blogs that a goal of protecting those who live, work, or attend classes on campus is an admirable goal. But it’s also important for lawmakers to consider the practicality and the consequences of their legislation. Should students be able to request that other students undergo a background check?