Background Checks

Background checks (which may include fingerprinting) are often required for service-learning students who come into contact with protected data or classes of people, such as children, persons with disabilities and persons living in assisted-living facilities. The decision of a learning site to require a background check is solely up to the learning site’s interpretation of the laws or regulations that govern it and are at the discretion of the learning site. Learning sites are responsible for facilitating background checks for service-learning students placed at their sites. The university plays no role in this decision and only needs to know which learning sites require background checks. During the site visit or assessment, the learning site should inform the university whether background checks are required and how any required background checks will be handled: where, when, at what level, how long the processing will take, and if students will be responsible for any costs. Because some background checks take much longer than others, faculty members should be prepared well in advance if, in fact, the background check process will take more than a few days.

Federal and state laws and regulations governing background checks are very strict regarding the privacy of the person being reviewed. Most allow only the entity requesting the background check to have access to the results. Consequently, because the university is not the requesting agency, no faculty or staff member should be given the specific results of a student’s background check and should decline to receive the results if offered. Learning sites are under strict guidelines to keep all background check information private and can be subject to serious legal penalties if they violate this right of privacy. This means that if a student takes two separate service-learning courses, each requiring a background check, the student needs to submit two background checks so that the results can be sent to two separate locations. This is true even if the service-learning courses are in the same semester.

Although it is the responsibility of the learning site to determine whether a background check is necessary, they are permitted to pass reasonable costs associated with the background check on to the student.

If the student has to pay for the background check, that information should be made clear to the student at the beginning of the course and written into the syllabus.

For more information concerning background checks, contact your campus risk manager or human resources department.