House Bill 435/Act 153 Certification of Clearances for Volunteers/School Employees

House Bill 435, now known as Act 153, was signed by the Governor on October 22, 2014 and is effective December 31, 2014. In addition to requirements for unpaid school volunteers, the law now requires all school employees covered under the school code, or anyone working at a school district who has contact with children, to provide new certifications of background clearances that include FBI, State Police and DPW’s Child Abuse Registry every 36 months (3 years).

The definition of a “volunteer” in Act 153 applies to an adult applying for an unpaid position as a volunteer responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children.

As of July 1, 2015, Act 153 now requires all volunteers, including school volunteers, parents, and even School Directors who serve as volunteers, to provide certifications of background clearances that include FBI, State Police and DPW’s Child Abuse Registry in the same manner as school employees.  In addition, the certifications obtained by school employees and volunteers must be renewed every 36 months.  This is the minimum requirement and a District can mandate stricter requirements for certifications and re-certifications of volunteers. The Act specifically states that “nothing in this law shall be construed to prohibit an organization (school district) from requiring additional information as part of the clearance process for volunteers who are responsible for the welfare of a child or have direct contact with children.”

Act 153 additionally permits a volunteer to “transfer or provide services to any other subsidiary or branch established or supervised by the same organization, or serve in a volunteer capacity for any program, service or activity, during the length of time the person’s certification is current.” This means that a volunteer with clearances provided to and approved by the District may work as a volunteer in all organizations or groups under the umbrella of the District during the length of time of the certification of clearances.

The grounds for denying the approval of a volunteer are as follows:

  1. In no case can a volunteer be approved who has been convicted of a felony offense under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act committed within the five (5) year period immediately preceding the request of the applicant to become a volunteer.
  2. If information is obtained that reveals an applicant is disqualified for approval as a volunteer, the applicant/volunteer shall be immediately dismissed as a volunteer.
  3. If a volunteer is arrested or convicted of an offense that would constitute grounds for denying participation as a volunteer in a program, or is named as a perpetrator in a founded or indicated report, the volunteer shall provide the administrator of the District volunteer program with written notice not later than 72 hours after the arrest, conviction or notification that the person has been listed as a perpetrator in the statewide database.
  4. If the District has a reasonable belief that a volunteer is subject to any factors listed in 3. above, the District shall immediately require the volunteer to submit current clearance information. The cost is borne by the District.
  5. Any volunteer who willfully fails to disclose the required information commits a misdemeanor of the third degree and is subject to termination.
  6. There are specific grounds set forth in Section 6344 (c) that preclude the approval of an applicant to serve as a volunteer. (See attached)

The effective date of Act 153 is December 31, 2014.

School Employees:

The renewal of certifications of clearances is required within thirty-six (36) months of the school employee’s most recent certification, effective December 31, 2014.  For example, if the school employee’s certification is 36 months old on January 1, 2015, the school employee must obtain a recertification by January 1, 2015.  If a school employee’s current certification is older than 36 months on December 31, 2014, a recertification is required within one (1) year of the effective date of the Act (December 31, 2014) and that date would be December 31, 2015.

Volunteers:

Effective July 1, 2015, a volunteer shall be required to obtain certifications every 36 months.  Although it is not clear in the plain English of Act 153, it appears that certifications are not required of volunteers until July 1, 2015.

*Section 6344 (c) Grounds for denying employment or participation in program, activity or service.

    • (1)  In no case shall an administrator hire or approve an applicant where the department  has verified that the applicant is named in the Statewide database as the perpetrator of a founded report committed within the five-year period immediately preceding verification pursuant to this section.
    • (2)  In no case shall an administrator hire an applicant if the applicant’s criminal history record information indicates the applicant has been convicted of one or more of the following offenses under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses) or an equivalent crime under Federal law or the law of another state:

Chapter 25 (relating to criminal homicide).

Section 2702 (relating to aggravated assault).

Section 2709.1 (relating to stalking).

Section 2901 (relating to kidnapping).

Section 2902 (relating to unlawful restraint).

Section 3121 (relating to rape).

Section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault).

Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse).

Section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault).

Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).

Section 3126 (relating to indecent assault).

Section 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).

Section 4302 (relating to incest).

Section 4303 (relating to concealing death of child).

Section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children).

Section 4305 (relating to dealing in infant children).

A felony offense under section 5902(b) (relating to prostitution and related offenses).

Section 5903(c) or (d) (relating to obscene and other sexual materials and performances).

Section 6301 (relating to corruption of minors).

Section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children).

The attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of the offenses set forth in this paragraph.

    • (3)  In no case shall an employer, administrator, supervisor or other person responsible for employment decisions hire or approve an applicant if the applicant’s criminal history record information indicates the applicant has been convicted of a felony offense under the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L. 233, No. 64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, committed within the five-year period immediately preceding verification under this section.
  • (c.1)       Dismissal. If the information obtained pursuant to subsection (b) reveals that the applicant is disqualified from employment or approval pursuant to subsection (c), the applicant shall be immediately dismissed from      employment or approval.

If you have any questions, please contact Judy Shopp at js@mbm-law.net or 412.242.4400.

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