Mom seeking stricter background checks

March 4, 2008 3:39:42 PM PST
Tina Tranauskas, a mother from rural northern Bucks County, is spearheading the campaign tighten loopholes in Pennsylvania schools' hiring policies in order to prevent criminals from getting access to children. "The assumption is that everybody who works with children and around children doesn't have a criminal history," Tina said.

Tina wants everyone to know that is not necessarily the case.

The way the laws currently stand in Pennsylvania, if you are younger than 21-years-old and applying for a job as a teacher or school bus driver, for example, there's no requirement to submit to a criminal background check.

Also, if a current school employee was hired before 1985, chances are they too never had to undergo a background check.

Even if you have a criminal history, but it's been more than five years since your conviction, you can legally get a job within a Pennsylvania school district.

Tranauskas's lobbying efforts have caught the attention of State Senator Robert Wonderling who is sponsoring a bill which, if passed, would require all perspective and current school employees with direct access to children to undergo annual state and federal criminal background checks.

"Then everybody would has the assurance that we're not having people come into this environment that don't have the right intentions," State Senator Robert Wonderling said.

The union representing teachers, however, does not see it the same way. Officials from the Pennsylvania State Education Association in Harrisburg sent Action News a statement saying that while they support ensuring the safety of children they are, "concerned with the bill as it is written because it requires annual background checks including annual fingerprinting. We deem that unnecessary."

However, Tina Tranauskas and Senator Wonderling say having too many safeguards is better than not having enough.

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