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Managing the Job Search so that your Past Doesn't Haunt You

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Recently, a reader asked the following question:

"[After being offered a position] ... a couple days later, I was told that the fingerprint/background check came back showing an arrest record from over 30 years ago when I was 18. It was for a felony drug possession and resisting arrest. I was given probation and completed it as required. As a result of this, the school district ... wasn't able to forward and hire me, which I was extremely disappointed."

The reader continues to describe a clean record, completion of a baccalaureate and master's degree, state certification, and experience teaching special needs children. "... What should I do in order to continue teaching in the district where I live? What advice could you give me so I can get a teaching job without having my past haunt me?"

At some point, you may want to consider meeting with an attorney to explore the legal implications of your past and legal options for moving forward with the job search and hiring process. Note that unless you have legally gone through a process to have something sealed or expunged your criminal record will show up forever (it does not go away after seven years).

If an interview goes well, I would explain the circumstances of the offense so that it is no surprise when a background check is conducted. Not every district would consider past offenses as a "deal breaker" but would look at each candidate and unique qualifications in considering a job offer.

The bottom line is that every school district has their own set of criteria for what is permissible in regards to background checks. I would first recommend that applicants disclose all convictions. If you disclose prior convictions it does not automatically disqualify you from a job, but if you don't it most certainly will. Make sure to read what qualifies as a conviction because most disclosure statements qualify deferrals or guilty pleas as convictions even if they end up dismissed.

Most school districts look at background checks in the following ways - frequency, severity, how long ago, nexus to job, and the circumstances of the case. I often look at how long ago the offense occurred, the age of the candidate when it occurred and if any additional offenses occurred since then.

If you have a conviction I would suggest that you disclose it on your testimony page, provide the court documents, and a statement of the incident. From there it is up to the school district to make a decision on your hire.

Todd Fukai, Director of Human Resources
Cherry Creek Schools, CO

Jack Kronser, Director of Human Resources
Aurora Public Schools, CO

Rebecca Faber, Asst. Dir., Career Services
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE

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