KETCHIKAN — The Ketchikan School District said it had to spend $7,000 to conduct background checks and to fingerprint 31 preschool staff members to satisfy new state requirements, which it called redundant.
The Ketchikan Daily News reports new state rules require teachers and paraprofessionals in preschools to meet security regulations more stringent than what districts require of certified teachers.
Certified teachers already are fingerprinted and they undergo background checks during the certification process.
Superintendent Robert Boyle said the new regulations from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development are cumbersome.
The district was notified in May that this process would have to be completed by mid-December and were initially told it would include everyone involved in preschools, from bus drivers to school board members, he said.
“I looked at this and said, ‘This is so stupid that there’s no way we’re going to have to comply with it,’” he said. “They’ve taken the concept of fingerprinting and said that it’s a higher standard than certification.”
He believes it should be the other way around.
Eric Fry, a spokesman for the state education department, told The Associated Press the rules went into effect in 2011, and align standards for preschools with private operators, who are regulated by the state health department.
“Because of the vulnerability of young kids, you would want a background check that is more extensive and that is maintained in real time so the employer gets immediate notification if one of their employees is convicted of doing wrong to children or had a report of harming children,” he said.
After a protest from the district, the state dropped the requirement that school board members and bus drivers, which are vetted by a contractor, would have to go through the process.
Boyle said under the new policy, principals are not qualified to watch a preschool class without a teacher or paraprofessional who has gone through the process present.
“It really seems to be quite a boondoggle,” Boyle said.
He told the school board this week that the redundant process cost the district $7,000, and a local tattoo shop was called in to collect the fingerprints.
The district plans to send copies of its bill for the certification process to the education commissioner and state Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, a member of the Senate Education Committee.
“It’s not the state’s responsibility,” Fry said of who should pay for the costs of certification. “Actually, it’s the individual person, the applicant’s responsibility. If the employer chooses to cover that, they’re certainly allowed to.”