In earlier blogs, we informed readers that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education enacted a policy that requires criminal background check and child abuse clearances for all workers at the state’s 14 public colleges and the System’s headquarters. The law that requires this is the Pennsylvania child Protective Services Law, and it was amended in July to exempt employees if their direct contact with minors is limited to “matriculated students enrolled in the institution” and prospective student visitors.
The faculty union asked a court to halt the background checks on professors, claiming that because few professors work with minors, it exceeds what the law requires and that it wastes public funds. It claims that there are fewer than 800 high school students across the system who are dual enrollees (in high school, taking college courses). The 14 school system has approximately 109,000 enrolled students.
In response to the request, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports a judge has halted the process, except for employees who teach courses with dual enrollees, as well as other employees who regularly come into direct contact with minors. The judge added that “the State System is enjoined from requiring all faculty to undergo background checks, pending either an arbitration decision or ruling from the Pennsylvania labor Relations Board on whether checks not required by law can be imposed on workers by management.”
The judge’s ruling affects approximately 5,000 employees across the system. According to the Post-Gazette, the initial checks were expected to be done on 43,000 employees, student employees and volunteers, with cost estimates of $4 million.