Court reinstates background checks for professors at state universities in Pennsylvania

A judge ruled that faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities who teach 100-level courses must resume completing criminal background and child abuse clearance checks as required by a State System of Higher Education policy.

The ruling comes after the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties (APSCUF) challenged the State System of Higher Education’s policy requiring all of its employees to obtain these clearances, which resulted in a halting of the policy’s implementation in September.

According to, the ruling can be considered a partial win for both the State System of Higher Education and the APSCUF: the system can continue requiring criminal background and child abuse clearance checks for those faculty who teach 100-level courses, and thus come in contact with those under 18 years of age, and the faculty union successfully persuaded the court to “not allow this requirement to be applied universally to those professors who teach upper-level courses at least until an arbiter and/or the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board rule whether the system has the managerial right to impose this requirement.”

The policy itself resulted from a change in state law implemented in Dec. 2014 which required all employees and volunteers who have supervision of minors to obtain criminal background and child abuse checks. That law was later altered to apply to college and university employees who had direct contact with minors on a routine basis as part of their employment. However, the State System of Higher Education did not revise its policy and continued to require all of its employees to obtain the clearances in an effort to “err on the side of caution.”

Source:, 1/19/2016

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