So WHO gets a background check?,


Today staff members at my school had a special teacher training.  It wasn’t about learning how to teach, oh no. It wasn’t about reaching out and finding ways to connect with kids, or how to improve our communication with the families who love those kids.

We didn’t meet so that we could learn how to help kids to fall in love with literature, or how to help them to become better consumers of new technologies. We weren’t talking about bullying, or nutrition or science or social skills or vocabulary.

We were being trained in how to maintain security during the state tests.

No kidding.

A half hour of time dedicated to these little gems: “If one child has not yet finished the test and it is lunchtime, secure all of the test booklets, then walk all of the students to the cafeteria. Do NOT leave the test booklets in the classroom unless an approved adult is able to watch over them.” (Um?? Scuse me?  There is only one of me. How do I watch the booklets and walk the kids to lunch?)

And this one: “If there is a fire or other emergency alarm collect and secure all of the test booklets before evacuating the students.”

I am not making this up.

After all of this pure and unadulterated bullshit, we all had to sign on the dotted line, to prove to the state that we had attended the training.  As we signed our names, some of us grumbled about the waste of time and effort. One of my colleagues said, “Just wait until next year, when all of us will have to be fingerprinted.”

You got that right: FINGERPRINTED.

The great state of Massachusetts, under the leadership of our nice liberal governor, has passed a law requiring that all teachers will now need to be fingerprinted, and that those prints will need to be sent to the FBI where they will be matched against a registry of convicted criminals.

Now, as a professional who has dedicated all of my intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy to raising and teaching children for the past 30 years, I am all about trying to keep kids safe.

But I am 57 years old; I have been teaching since I was 27.  I have never, ever, ever had even one single question raised about my relationships with my students.  I am under NO suspicion. I have never had a bad evaluation, or a serious parental complaint or a reason to have my performance questioned. Not once. Not ever.

And yet, my state is demanding that I submit to being fingerprinted, as if I have been arrested for some crime. As if I have stolen, or killed or molested or hurt.  As if there is  any reason to suspect that I am a felon.

I have to submit to this humiliation, and I have to accept the fact that the federal government (you know the one I mean, the one that is so desperate to cut costs) is going to own and hold and keep my fingerprints on file so that it can spend time and money checking those prints against the ones taken from all those murderers, rapists and thieves.

What the HELL?

I hope that you can see the multitude of problems with this plan.   If you can’t, please let me lay them out for you, at least as I see them.

1) All those “education reform” people keep saying that we need to recruit and keep “the best” of our young people, that our teachers need to be the very best, most qualified people possible.  We need a great teacher in front of every classroom.   You really think that treating them like potential felons is a good way to do that?

2) We keep hearing how schools need to cut cots, how we need to live within our means, how we can’t keep spending money on things that don’t directly help kids. At roughly $60 a pop for each fingerprint check, are we really going to ask districts to fork over thousands of dollars to make sure of what they already know?

3) How is it going to make even one child safer to check the fingerprints of people like me, people who have been standing in front of classrooms for decades, with absolutely no suspicion of any wrongdoing, ever?

4) If you think that it is necessary to have the FBI check on every person who works with kids, are you ready to pay for fingerprinting of doctors, psychologists, priests, ministers, boy scout leaders, soccer coaches, dance teachers, camp counselors, cheerleading coaches, drama teachers, nurses, dentists, football refs and the people who work at Chuck E Cheese?

I have to be honest here.  I love my job.  I have been pretty good at it.  I have adjusted to the state tests, the stupidity of those test security rules, the new curriculum, the decrease of available resources and the constant public criticism of my profession.

But I will NOT stand in front of an ink pad and submit my fingerprints for review by the FBI.  I won’t do it.

I am not a criminal. I do not deserve this humiliation and I won’t do it.  I am willing to lose my job over this issue.  I. Won’t. Do. This.

Let me leave you with this one unsettling thought:

My elected officials demand that I submit to fingerprinting so that I can keep doing what I have been successfully doing for almost 30 years.

But they won’t even ask me to fill out a form if I become so enraged by the process that I decide to go to a gun show and buy an AR-15 and 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

Somebody out there damn well needs to be outraged, and it can’t be only me.

27 thoughts on “So WHO gets a background check?,

  1. What a stupid idea, Moms. Seriously, seriously stupid.

    Wouldn’t a DNA sample be more practical? (Sorry I couldn’t resist — but I can hear you screaming from here …)

    I thought of it as a joke, but you know, it’s not. Isn’t it just like them to insult you and other teachers to the core all the while using outmoded/obsolete/more costly technology?

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    • And if I thought that ONE child would be made safer, I’d be all for it. I’d do the freakin’ DNA test. Seriously. This is just humiliation to make us aware that we are viewed by those in power as just one step above child molesters. I cried all the way home tonight, thinking about this. I truly will refuse. I am contacting the ACLU about it, too.
      I just don’t understand why there is such a hatred of teachers. I don’t get it.

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  2. They want you to retire so they can replace you with someone making half as much with limited benefits, no tenure and non-union. In my district in NJ they began ordering psych evaluations for older teachers (I kid you not) and many retired because they felt humiliated. I retired because they built an “alternate” school out of trailers and wooden decks, and surrounded by barbed wire and padlocked gates (a virtual concentration camp) and transferred me (and the other HS art teachers there…suddenly we were all going to be art therapists!) I was informed of the transfer over the intercom on the first day of school. I also contacted the ACLU and the NJ State board of education. Good luck, and seriously get your retirement papers ready.

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    • I guess the saddest part for me is that my daughter is a young teacher; I love that she is so great at the job. I love that her colleagues and students love her.
      I hate that she’s going to be fingerprinted….
      And, jeez, where on earth did you teach? I can’t believe what happened to you! I’m sorry.

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  3. We have the same sort of thing here with Criminal Record Bureau checks – for any job or activity that’s remotely connected with children. It’s not really about protecting children – it’s about protecting the backs of officialdom. The problem is that it tends to create a false sense of security and leads to organizations not getting proper references.

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    • And if it really would protect kids, I wouldn’t mind! But I have no doubt that you are right; this is about protecting some bureaucrats somewhere. I mean, seriously; how many people with felony records go through all the training and testing that it takes to be a teacher nowadays? Don’t they kind of know the record will come out somewhere? I don’t think fingerprinting every teacher in the country is going to shake out any rapists.

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  4. The test procedure training might be mundane, but it’s important because if the tests aren’t administered correctly, they become invalid depending on what state you’re in. I’m sure the training wasn’t meant for experienced teachers, but it was meant for newcomers that don’t know how to properly administer tests.

    Also, you don’t think you need a background check to be around kids? That’s new…

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    • The training was mandatory for all of us, and we had to sign a paper saying that we had attended. It had nothing to do with administration, but everything to do with making sure that ten year old kids don’t “touch” or “look at” the top of the test booklet. And I’ve been “background checked” for 25 years, every year.
      I have never been fingerprinted like a felon. How about if we keep on checking the already voluminous personal records on me in my district, town, local police and state police?
      Personally, I’d like the $60 bucks to go toward purchasing those new books I’ve been asking for.
      I’m happy that you don’t feel humiliated by these experiences. I’m hopeful for the profession if you find it comfortable and appropriate, I honestly am.
      For me, I am pretty bitter that after having done everything right for 57 years of my life, I have to be put under this kind of suspicion.

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      • I was referring to administering the test not administration… I get what you’re saying about everything, but having a fingerprint clearance card is a part of the process nowadays. I coach as well as teach. You need a fingerprint clearance card to coach too, and it has prevented people with records that attempted to coach. Honestly, if it’s stops people that aren’t supposed to be around kids from being around them, then I don’t see the problem.

        Everything is cya these days. Sorry you’re taking it this personal.

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      • Thanks for your more moderate comments; I guess part of the issue is that I am older. I came from the days of marching in the streets and a real belief in personal freedoms. The idea of being “guilty until proven innocent” (which is truly how this feels to me) would have created a riot.
        I believe that there are much more logical, much safer, much less intrusive ways to keep kids safe than this one.
        Until we fingerprint doctors, psychologists, clergy, scout masters and ALL coaches, I do feel that this is wrong.
        I also really resent the idea that my most personal and unchangeable information will be kept on file by my government. You know, the guys with the drones……

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      • So until all people receive fingerprint clearance cards, you are against it? Good luck with that. You work in a school district, but somehow you think you’re above being screened for possible background infractions? You think the gov’t needs a fingerprint clearance card to get all your information, c’mon on…

        Best of luck with all of that

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  5. I would not want my child to die in a fire because the test booklets had to secured first! Um, aren’t the children even a little bit more important?!
    As for the fingerprinting, I agree with you, but I have to admit I’ve gotten used to it. Here in California, you can’t buy or sell or re-finance a house without getting fingerprinted at closing. So I’ve submitted over the years to get lower mortgage rates.
    I think contacting the ACLU is a good idea, and I hate to think that you cried all the way home. Especially because I know you have a long commute!

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    • Ha! It is a long commute! Enough to get me all steamed up.
      Maybe this is the reaction of an aging hippy, but I am just so incredibly sad to realize that Americans now take it absolutely for granted that the federal government can keep fingerprint records on us all, can watch us with invisible drones, can monitor our emails and phone calls.
      “Any country that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Ben Franklin

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    • Honestly! Thank you for getting it!
      I can’t teach fractions without being run through a national data base, but I can walk out this door right now and buy the biggest, most lethal weapon I want without even having to sign my name or show an ID.
      This is so not keeping kids safer!
      Any room up there for a nice hockey loving teacher?

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  6. I think it’s incredibly condescending how legislators think they understand teaching better than the teachers themselves. Perhaps we could have some history and government teachers oversee the legislators! 🙂

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