News & Resources

Background screenings protect Florida children, add high costs to school budgets

Apr 12, 2011 Matt Roesly

School officials in Florida are using an advanced background screening system involving fingerprints in order to ensure that school children are protected. The Naples News reports that, though the process is considered vital, counties around the state are spending large amounts of revenue to keep the fingerprints on file and run tests on them every year. The news source reports that the Lee County School District is expected to use $800,000 in funds through the year 2015 in order to perform the process. And while the costs in the county are high, Greg Adkins, the human resources director for Lee County schools, says that the expense is incredibly worthwhile. "We will be getting a (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) credit, so we will recoup some of those costs," he said in an interview with the paper. "It’s a good thing because it keeps kids safe, but it is also one of those unfunded mandates which results in significant costs to the district." According to a law passed by the state legislature in 2004, all public staff hired must have their fingerprints submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE keeps the prints on record and will notify the local municipalities if an arrest occurs at a later date. Adkins says that when the law was first passed in 2004, it presented a challenge to school budgets everywhere, based on the sheer number of people who needed to be added to the system. He expects the costs to be lower as time goes on. "When it went into effect, we went into a mad rush to get everyone printed," Adkins said in an interview with the news source. "As a result, you see the spike and then it goes back down." And while the fingerprinting system is mandated by the state, sometimes people slip through the system during the hiring process. The Palm Beach Post reports that the Summit Christian School in West Palm Beach failed to run a criminal background check on Socrates Maradiagas before he was hired. If they had done so, it would have been revealed that he had been convicted of crimes in the past.