Nothing can undo the pain and suffering that the young boys experienced at the hands of Educational Institution Pennsylvania State University’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was recently convicted of sexually abusing 10 children. Many of the charges, which include rape and sodomy, carry significant prison terms, and most likely Sandusky will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Yet on the heels of this verdict and in the wake of facing complex civil lawsuits from the victims and their families, embattled Penn State recently updated its hiring policies.
The educational institution, effective July 5th, requires that final job applicants and third-party employees undergo criminal background checks before approval of work at the university. Under the policy, current employees in “sensitive/critical” positions also must complete the background check and all employees are required to disclose criminal arrests and convictions within 72 hours of their occurrence. The background criminal check covers academic and nonacademic positions, unpaid positions, and third-party employees working on the university’s behalf.
In addition to the standard background check process, additional verifications may be conducted based on the responsibilities of the job, according to Penn State. Some of the additional checks include motor vehicle records, educational and licensure credentials, as well as employment history. Motor vehicle record checks will be verified for individuals whose responsibilities include driving a university-owned vehicle, or those who may be asked to transport minors. These records will be re-verified every three years, initiated by a department supervisor. Those employees must notify Human Resources of any arrests or convictions for driving while under the influence or the loss of the individual’s driver’s license due to traffic violations or other similar charges/convictions. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
What’s more, the policy has been updated to stipulate that all employees must report suspected child abuse to state officials. “The updated background check policy reflects best practice and is part of a comprehensive program of due diligence and proactive safety measures,” said Susan Basso, associate vice president of human resources at Penn State. “By consistent implementation of the policy, we’ll ensure a safer environment for all of Penn State’s employees, students and visitors.”
These policies are critical at all institutions. In our blog last December after the Penn State scandal broke out, we covered some of the key risk management steps for universities and all schools must undertake. Just to reiterate and expand (some of which Penn State has now employed with their new, update policy), some of these risk management protocols include:
Conducting a background check of employees who will have access to minors against the National Child Abuse and Neglect Registry
- Checking criminal records and fingerprints
- Performing face-to-face interviews based on behavioral interview techniques
- Having written policies that include a zero tolerance statement on sexual abuse
- Prohibiting staff to be left alone with minors and implement steps to prevent such potentially dangerous situations
- Implementing procedures (including reporting policies to management, the authorities, and Child Protection Services) on how to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse that are outlined clearly in an employee handbook and train staff on reporting procedures
If an allegation is supported by sufficient evidence, the alleged offender should be relieved immediately of his/her position and referred to the appropriate medical evaluation and intervention. The school also should be obligated to comply with civil law regarding the reporting of the incident and cooperation with the investigation.
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