College Student Background Checks

College Student Background Checks

College Campus living has always been fraught with concerns. Students wonder whether they will be compatible with their roommates, have privacy, and adjust to an environment without parental controls. Parents rely on college administrators to alleviate their concerns for the safety and well being of their children. But how much information do school administrations know about the students that live on campus? Could the student in your child’s dorm room be a convicted felon?

West Virginia legislators have proposed a new bill (House Bill 4009) that will allow colleges and universities to conduct criminal background checks on prospective and current students who reside or apply to reside in on-campus housing within the state. This bill would also allow inspanidual students to perform a background check on another student or potential student – at their own expense.

Privacy and Confidentiality issues are paramount. How this type of  sensitive information is dispensed, stored and disposed of is at issue. The West Virginia bill requires schools to keep background check results confidential except when the subject gives permission to disseminate the information or under a court order. Records would be destroyed after the start of a semester but no deadlines have been determined.

While the law may be appropriate under certain circumstances (ie. investigating school conduct violations or evaluating potential transfer students who have been expelled from another institution), student-driven checks may be seen as a form of harassment or may be an invasion of an inspanidual’s privacy.

There are concerns about cost, safety and the possibilities of inaccurate information and abuse of such information as well as violations of federal privacy laws. It has not been determined whether extensive background check policies will be adopted by private educational institutions or become a standard practice across the states.

The safety of faculty, students and staff on campus is imperative however, there are legal and privacy issues that must be addressed within each state and how they might affect the privacy and rights of an inspanidual within the current federal laws.

U.S. Information Search is a national background check company located in Rockland County, N.Y.

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