Arizona educators must submit fingerprints before renewing certificates

Starting July 18, some 45,000 Arizona teachers and administrators will have to submit their fingerprints for criminal checks before renewing their state certificates.

“This new law will create a safer environment for children,” said Craig Emanuel, chief investigator for the state Board of Education’s certification division. “I’ve surveyed all 50 states, and few have such a tough requirement.”

The new law requires anyone who applies for a new certificate or who is renewing one to be fingerprinted.

Those files will be kept in a computer so the state Department of Public Safety can be alerted if an educator is arrested for any of a number of specific offenses. DPS then will notify the state Department of Education.

Arizona has required fingerprinting of school employees since 1990, but those who already had certificates were exempt. In addition, DPS only began keeping fingerprints in computer files since August 1999, and those files include no one who already had a certificate.

Dozens of different offenses would prevent an applicant from holding a fingerprint clearance card, including incest, child abuse, aggravated assault, driving under the influence, domestic violence, writing a bad check, shoplifting, and forgery. In some cases, the applicant can appeal to the state.

Authorities said it takes about a month for the national criminal check to be completed, so educators are encouraged to apply for certificate renewal a few months before it expires.

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