2016-07-28 / Front Page

School board debates policy on criminal background checks

810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – Candidates for the Swartz Creek Board of Education soon could face a decision about revealing more personal information.

The school board is considering a policy that would urge candidates to voluntarily submit to criminal records checks and disclose the results prior to elections.

“We’re talking about felony criminal convictions,” said board Vice President Brian Sepanak.

Not everyone on the board is in favor of the policy.

Trustee Lorraine Ahearne called it an infringement on the rights of candidates.

Trustee Mike Ahearne agreed.

“I don’t think it’s our business (during the campaign),” he said. “I have no problem with it after they’re elected.”

Already, state and federal laws require background checks for district employees, vendors who come in contact with students and people who volunteer for school events and field trips. That equates to “thousands” of records checks every year, according to Hall.

“The only people in the district without background checks are the school board members,” said President Carrie Germain. “It’s not a mandate. We’re asking them to voluntarily get it done and share the information, disclose it.”

Criminal records are public information that the general population can access, often for free, on federal, state and county websites. For a $10 fee, anyone can use Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT).

But one school board member is wondering where it will stop.

“Parents walk into those buildings every day,” said Trustee Ken Engel.

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