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"F" is for Failure (to Complete Background Checks)
By Andrew W. Li on December 13, 2017

With school elections firmly behind us, Boards of Education are now looking forward to their January re-organization meetings and, in some cases, new Board members taking office. But as everyone knows, December can be a hectic rush, with more and more competing demands for our increasingly limited time and attention.  As a result, sometimes the requirements of N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1.2(a), that every newly elected or appointed member of a Board of Education must complete a criminal history background investigation “within 30 days of election or appointment,” can be overlooked in all the holiday hubbub.

Making matters worse, in prior years the New Jersey Department of Education had permitted new Board members a limited “grace period.”  Previously, new Board members could be sworn in and take office if their criminal background check had been started but not completed and the new member swore or affirmed that they were not disqualified from serving on the Board of Education.

However, in an e-mail sent to County Executive Superintendents earlier this year, the Department of Education ended the grace period, effective March 6, 2017.

As such, per the Department of Education, now if new members fail to complete their criminal background checks within the required time frame, they may not be sworn in as Board members.  

What does this mean for newly elected or appointed members who come to your January meeting expecting to take their seats at the Board of Education table?  Can new members be sworn in if they are still awaiting the results of their criminal background checks?  Can they still sit at the table, albeit as “non-participating” Board members?  Can they participate in or listen to executive discussions, even if they cannot vote?

To get clear answers to these questions, school districts would be well-advised to consult with school law attorneys to consider and review what to do if your Board is faced with this situation.  

For more information, please contact Parker McCay’s school law attorneys.

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion.  You should consult a lawyer concerning your specific situation and any specific legal question you may have.

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