The interaction between education professionals and students represents one of the most sensitive working relationships in our society. Parents and guardians entrust their most precious children to the education system with the expectation that the welfare of those children will be jealously guarded. To that end, the Arizona Legislature saw fit to impose several background check requirements which include the submission of fingerprints by the school district employee, volunteer, job applicant, and anyone else who is permitted to provide services directly to students unsupervised by a certificated employee. This article seeks to point out some of the general fingerprinting requirements triggered by working relationships with volunteers, employees, and other members of the public. This article does not cover every possible scenario with regards to fingerprinting requirements and the reader is strongly urged to contact legal counsel whenever a fingerprint issue arises.
Arizona Revised Statues (“A.R.S.”) §15-106 requires that an applicant who applies for a new teaching certificate to teach in a school district, a participant in teaching field experience, a student teacher, an applicant applying for renewal of a teaching certificate in order to teach in a school district, a first time applicant for a charter school, an applicant who is required to renew fingerprints in order to teach in a charter school, anyone who is required to be fingerprinted under A.R.S. §15-512 (this is discussed later in this article), and any person contracted to provide tutoring services to obtain an identity verified fingerprint card. The statute then requires that the identity verified fingerprint card be submitted to the State of Arizona Department of Safety (“DPS”) for background check progressing. The background check performed by DPS is outlined in A.R.S. §41-1758 et. seq.
It is worthy of note that as per A.R.S. §15-106(10) a person who participates in a teacher preparation program approved by the State of Arizona Department of Education and who does not participate in student teaching or field experience is not required to obtain a fingerprint clearance card.
According to A.R.S. §15-106(3), in order to obtain the fingerprint card the school district or charter school is permitted to contract for fingerprinting services through an appropriate provider as long as the school district provides a copy of the instructions regarding fingerprinting prepared by DPS. Alternatively, the school district or charter school may elect to provide fingerprinting services directly by authorizing an individual employee to administer the fingerprinting services.
While A.R.S. §15-106 addresses fingerprinting requirements for paid teachers and student teachers, A.R.S. §15-512 address fingerprinting requirements for all noncertificated employees, volunteers, and anyone else who is permitted to provide services directly to students unsupervised by a certificated employee. A.R.S. §15-512(A) states,
“Noncertificated personnel and personnel who are not paid employees of the school district and who are not either the parent or the guardian of a pupil who attends school in the school district but who are required or allowed to provide services directly to pupils without the supervision of a certificated employee and who are initially hired by a school district after January 1, 1990 shall be fingerprinted as a condition of employment except for personnel who are required as a condition of licensing to be fingerprinted if the license is required for employment or for personnel who were previously employed by a school district and who reestablished employment with that district within one year after the date that the employee terminated employment with the district.”
“Noncertificated personnel” would include most, if not all, classified non-teaching school district staff members. “Personnel who are not paid employees of the school district” includes school district volunteers. It is worthy of not that if the volunteer is a parent then that parent will not be considered within the definition of “personnel who are not paid employees of the school district.”
The statue requires that if a “noncertificated personnel” staff member or a person who is not a paid employee of the school district is permitted to provide services directly to a student “without the supervision of a certificated employee” that the person in question must first obtain fingerprint clearance before providing such services.
An exception to the A.R.S. §15-512 requirement is if the covered person can be “supervised” by a school district certificated staff member. A.R.S. §15-512(A) provides that for the purposes of this statutory requirement “supervision” is defined as “under the direction of and, except for brief periods of time during a school day or a school activity, within sight of a certificated employee when providing direct services to pupils.” This means that the covered person needs to remain in the line of sight of the supervising certificated staff member at all times, except for brief periods of time like bathroom breaks.
A second exemption to the A.R.S. §15-512 requirement is for school district personnel who are required as a condition of that person’s licensing to be fingerprinted, if the license is required for employment. It is not sufficient for a person to have fingerprint clearance in order to have a license to practice a particular profession if the school district is not hiring that person to practice that profession. The profession which requires the fingerprints as a condition of licensing must be the profession the school district is hiring the person to perform in order to obtain the exemption.
A final exemption to the A.R.S. §15-512 requirement is for school district personnel who were previously employed by a school district and who reestablished employment with that district within one year after the date that the employee terminated employment with the school district. This means that if a school district employee separates from employment with that school district and returns within a year from the date of termination that the employee’s fingerprint clearance will remain effective.
As per A.R.S. §15-512(G), a school district is also permitted to require fingerprint clearance of any other person engaged to provide services to the school district whether paid or unpaid not otherwise covered elsewhere in statute. However, the school district may not charge the costs of this type of fingerprinting to a job applicant or a nonpaid employee (i.e. a volunteer).
Finally the school district may be required to assume the costs of the fingerprinting those persons covered by A.R.S. §15-512. A.R.S. §15-512(C) states that the school district is required to assume the costs of fingerprint checks and fingerprint clearance cards but may choose to charge these costs to the fingerprinted employee. However the school district is not allowed to pass along the costs of fingerprinting to those persons who are not paid employees (i.e. volunteers) of the school district. Further, any monies collected by the school district for fingerprinting must be deposited with the appropriate county treasurer.
The determination of which personnel are required to obtain fingerprints, which may be required to submit fingerprints, the assignment of costs for fingerprinting, and acceptable exemptions from fingerprint requirements are complex. It is always best practice to contact legal counsel if there is ever a concern regarding fingerprints and the reader is strongly urged to do so.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Fingerprints, or any other estate planning matters, please feel free to contact at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.