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Teaching Background Check: A Complete Guide [2023]

teacher background check

As a K-12 school employer, you must conduct thorough pre-employment background checks on all prospective teachers, volunteers, and employees to protect the safety of the children you serve.

While all schools check the backgrounds of teachers, some background checks leave a lot to be desired.

Did you know that the majority of states fail to properly background check teachers?

Based on our extensive experience conducting teaching background checks in all 50 states, we wrote this guide as a resource for school districts.

Let’s start now.

Why Are Background Checks Important for Teachers?

Teachers are entrusted with the safety of the children they oversee. A teacher background check helps to ensure that candidates are fully qualified and have the good moral character needed to perform their jobs.

Failing to properly perform teaching background checks can result in hiring teachers who are unfit and unqualified, potentially placing the safety of children and your school’s reputation at risk.

Educational background checks are not only necessary for prospective teachers. You should also perform them on anyone whose job involves interacting with children, including the following:

  • School cafeteria employees
  • Volunteers (including parent volunteers)
  • Substitute teachers
  • Teacher’s aides
  • School bus drivers
  • School janitorial staff
  • Administrators
  • School guidance counselors
  • School nurses

Teacher Background Check Laws 2023

As a school employer, you must comply with both state and federal laws when you conduct teacher background checks.

Here are some of the most important laws.

Federal Teacher Background Check Laws

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects the privacy of consumers when consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) collect, retain, and disseminate employment background information to prospective employers.

Under the FCRA, CRAs cannot report the following types of information when it is seven or more years old for positions paying less than $75,000 per year:

  • Arrests not resulting in convictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Liens
  • Civil judgments
  • Lawsuits

These limitations do not apply to positions paying salaries of $75,000 or more, however.

The FCRA places no restrictions on the reporting of convictions, so those can be reported regardless of age.

Similarly, the FCRA does not restrict other types of crucial background information for teachers, including employment history, education history, certifications, licensure, abuse and neglect registry information, sex offender registry information, and others.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits workplace discrimination based on applicants’ or employees’ protected characteristics.

Under guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers who learn that candidates have criminal convictions must individually assess the convictions as they directly relate to the duties of the jobs.

However, many states automatically bar teachers from obtaining licensure who have specific types of convictions.

State Teaching Background Check Laws

The laws governing teacher background checks vary from state to state. However, most require teachers to undergo extensive background checks.

Let’s take a look at a few examples below.


The Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 9 in 2007, which requires public and private schools to conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks on applicants for the following types of positions:

  • Certified teachers
  • Substitute teachers and teachers’ aides, whether or not certified
  • Volunteers
  • Contractors who will have direct contact with students
  • Student teachers
  • Employees of shared service arrangements with schools who will perform work when students are present
  • Noncertified employees

Texas prohibits employers from hiring teachers and other employees who will have contact with children with any of the following types of convictions:

  • Misdemeanor or felony convictions for crimes of moral turpitude
  • Misdemeanor or felony convictions for crimes involving minor victims, including sexual offenses or abuse
  • Felony drug convictions
  • Misdemeanor or felony convictions for misappropriation of school property or funds
  • Misdemeanor or felony convictions for attempting to obtain a license by fraud
  • Criminal homicide, kidnapping, trafficking, assaults, and sexual offenses


In California, both private and public school employers are required to conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks on applicants.

Under Cal. Educ. Code 44237, private school employers must require all applicants for positions that will involve direct contact with children to submit two sets of fingerprints to the California Department of Justice.

The California Education Omnibus Bill Trailer Act (AB 130) was effective on Jan. 1, 2022. It mandates that any contractors that contract with schools must secure fingerprint background checks on any employees who will interact with students while contracting for work with schools.

Similarly, all applicants for teacher certificates or licenses must submit fingerprints to the Department of Justice.

Under Cal. Educ. Code § 44830.1, schools cannot hire applicants with the following convictions unless they have certificates showing rehabilitation or pardons:

Numerous different crimes are listed in these two statutes, so you should review them to determine which types of offenses automatically disqualify prospective teachers.

New York

Under 8 CRR-NY § 87.4(a), school employers cannot hire applicants without obtaining fingerprint-based criminal background checks and obtaining clearances from the state.

If the state determines an applicant has a criminal conviction or a pending criminal matter, it will then review it as it relates to the duties of the position under N.Y. Corr. Law §§ 752 – 753 before determining whether to deny clearance.

If clearance is denied, you cannot hire the applicant.

What Shows up on a Teaching Background Check?

What might show up on a teaching background check will depend on the types of reports you request and the laws in your state.

Most school employers ask for the following:

  • Criminal convictions
  • Professional license and credentials checks
  • Education history
  • Employment history
  • Sex offender registry check
  • Drug testing
  • Abuse and neglect registry check
  • Listing on the Domestic Terrorist Watch List

Here’s what you might see on a few of these reports.

Criminal Background Check

On a criminal background check for employment for an applicant with a criminal record, you will see the following types of information:

  • Offense type
  • Offense date
  • Offense level (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Disposition
  • Disposition date
  • Sentence

Professional License/Credentials Checks

If you request professional license verification for a candidate, you will see the following types of information:

  • License type
  • Issuance date
  • Certificate number
  • Sanctions/disciplinary actions
  • Whether the license is active and valid
  • Expiration date

Employment Verification

On an employment verification report, the following information will appear for each former position held by the applicant:

  • Employer’s name and contact information
  • Employment dates
  • Positions/titles held

Education Verification

On an education verification report, you will see the following information about each school attended:

  • Name and address
  • Attendance dates
  • Diplomas, certificates, or degrees conferred

How to Get a Background Check for Teaching Positions

Schools need to run both state and nationwide-level background checks on prospective applicants instead of relying on only local sources.

As a result, many schools across the nation do not properly complete background checks on teachers and do not report all disciplinary actions and sanctions to the NASDTEC Clearinghouse. The NASDTEC Clearinghouse maintains a database of all teacher discipline and sanctions reported by members.

Unfortunately, because of the varying laws and requirements, some teachers can move from state to state even though they have engaged in misconduct in a previous state.

You can look up a teacher’s credentials in many states, including California and Missouri, among others.

You can search for sex offender registry information by searching the National Sex Offender Public Website on the website of the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, if your district only relies on local or state sources and online searches, you might not get a complete picture of your applicants’ backgrounds and could put the children you serve at risk.

Trying to send multiple requests to various agencies, schools, and previous employers through a DIY approach is also not a good idea.

This approach can take several weeks and might return inaccurate and incomplete information that does not comply with the FCRA and other laws.

A better approach is to work with a reliable background check company like iprospectcheck.

We have extensive resources and the skills needed to quickly complete comprehensive teacher background checks, and we always comply with the FCRA and other laws.

What Can Disqualify You From Being a Teacher?

Multiple factors can disqualify people from becoming teachers because of their role in educating children. However, the laws vary from state to state.

Some common types of disqualifying convictions are discussed below.

1. Sex Offenses

People who have sex offense convictions involving minors will likely be disqualified regardless of where they might apply to become teachers.

Most states also prohibit people who have any type of sex offense from becoming teachers.

2. Serious Felonies

Prospective teachers who are applying for certification and current educators applying to renew their licenses will likely be disqualified if they have serious felony convictions on their records such as the following:

  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Grand theft
  • Burglary

3. Convictions for Person Crimes

People who have been convicted of person crimes that endangered others will likely be ineligible for teacher certification or employment.

Some examples of these types of convictions might include the following:

  • Kidnapping
  • Stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Terroristic threats
  • Aggravated assaults or batteries
  • Weapons convictions

4. Drug Convictions/Failed Drug Tests

Teachers who have drug convictions or who fail pre-employment drug tests will likely be turned down for employment.

Certain drug convictions will also prevent applicants from gaining certification in many states.

Can I Become a Teacher With a Criminal Record?

While having a criminal record will make it more difficult for applicants to become teachers, whether you can become a teacher will depend on the following factors:

  • Age of the conviction
  • Whether the conviction was for a disqualifying offense under your state’s law
  • Whether the conviction was expunged or pardoned
  • Whether you can present evidence of rehabilitation

Many states allow people with some criminal convictions to present evidence of rehabilitation to obtain a teacher’s license. However, certain types of offenses are always disqualifying.

How Long Does a Teacher Background Check Take?

How long it might take for you to complete a teacher background check will depend on how you go about conducting it.

If you send requests to multiple agencies, educational institutions, and former employers, you can expect the process to take weeks.

By contrast, if you work with iprospectcheck, the process can be very fast. Because of our extensive resources and advanced research methods, we can frequently return comprehensive reports to schools within a few hours.

Partner With iprospectcheck for Reliable Teaching Background Checks

Schools must be careful when they hire teachers and other employees who will have access to children.

Failing to conduct thorough education background checks can place your students, other employees, and your school’s reputation at risk.

At iprospectcheck, we provide comprehensive background checks for teachers, other school employees, and volunteers in all 50 states, including the following:

  • California
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin
  • And many more

Call us today to learn more about our teacher background check and clinical services or to receive a free quote: 888-808-9997

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.