Designing a Background Check for Teachers

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

September 28 2023

A few years ago, USA Today revealed cracks in the education system by grading the states on their teacher background checks. This report revealed how risky hires sneak their way into classrooms with vulnerable populations – a revelation that undoubtedly concerns parents, teachers, and legislators. We can fix this. The average person will assume it’s the fault of the teachers or the education system. However, the truth is that some schools are required to use the local police department or county government HR department for background checks, rather than relying on an experienced and accredited background screening company. Because of this, they may not know what services to order or what sources to rely on for the most thorough information. By knowing what a comprehensive background check for teachers should look like and working with the right background screening provider, education institutions can make major strides in the right direction toward school safety and a positive learning environment.

What Are Best Practices for a Background Check for Teachers?

Like most pre-employment background checks, a background check for teachers should, at the very least, do two main things. One: it should reveal any important details about a candidate’s criminal record. The other major step is to verify the teaching candidate’s credentials and experience. These fundamental steps give you a good picture of a candidate’s eligibility to teach at your school. However, there are special circumstances that call for a more thorough approach to screening. Let’s explore what takes a teacher’s background check from good to great.

1. Services Included in a Background Check for Teachers

First, let’s discuss some common services included in a great background check solution for teachers.

Criminal History Search

Whether you work for a public school, private school, or charter school, you must ensure that those you employ to be in close contact with students can be trusted. At the core of any background check is a criminal history search. Criminal background checks for teachers should include not only a federal criminal history search, but also a criminal history search at the county, state, and/or national levels. This ensures that a candidate’s criminal record is clear of any reports of violence, theft, or other dangerous criminal activity that may put your education organization and its vulnerable populations at risk.

National Sex Offender Search

Unfortunately, sexual misconduct is still a big issue in educational institutions across the US. One study conducted by the Office of Justice Programs found that around 1 in 10 students at US K-12 schools will be a victim of sexual misconduct from a school employee by the time they graduate.

This is why it is vital to work with a background screening provider who runs thorough, trusted sex offender searches on teaching candidates. Though this does not account for the issue of people who will commit an offense after the time-of-hire, it gives your school the first defense against current offenders by telling you if a candidate is on the sex offender registry or has been found guilty of child abuse.

SSN Trace Plus

One of the major issues listed in the previously mentioned USA Today study was that teachers who committed offenses in one state were able to get hired in another state where their background check did not have enough scope to catch the crime. One way criminal background checks for teachers can mitigate this issue is by tracing a candidate’s social security number.

With SSN Trace, a criminal background check is strengthened by revealing additional names or previous addresses that were not provided by the teaching applicant. InfoMart’s SSN Trace Plus goes one step further by adding jurisdictions tied to arrest information – this allows you to find criminal results in places your employee never lived, but perhaps visited on vacation or for work. If you want an even more in depth background check program for school employees, look for a provider who offers a good program for fingerprinting in background checks, too.

Social Media Search

Nowadays, candidates show a lot of their truest personality traits online – somewhere where students also spend their time. Including social media screening in background checks for teachers not only ensures that students do not find alarming posts made by their teachers online, but it also checks for important things to know about a candidate that may not show up on their criminal background check.

In one anonymous survey, 45% of teachers admitted to having bullied a student. Since bullying is already an extremely prevalent and harmful issue among students, schools need to do everything in their power to prevent teachers from adding to the problem. Social media background screening scans a teaching candidate’s online profiles for evidence of hate speech, harassment, sexually inappropriate behavior, and more. This gives schools an extra level of protection and peace of mind by revealing more about a teacher’s personality than a typical criminal background check.

Occupational Health Services

Most schools already have systems in place to drug test school employees and check their immunizations. However, many schools find that running their occupational health services through their background screening provider helps to keep onboarding as integrated and seamless as possible. 

The right background screening provider will facilitate drug screening and immunizations for teachers via a user-friendly, “one-stop shop” occupational health program. It’s crucial to make sure they offer flexible drug test options. This will help teachers easily fit a drug test into their busy schedule, while also aiding schools in choosing what fits their needs.

Next, let’s further explore two vital services included in a teacher background check.

2. Verifying a Teacher’s Credentials

Anyone can make themselves appear to be a star candidate on their resume. But are they telling the truth? Verifying an applicant’s credentials is always important, but it’s especially important to verify the teachers we hire and entrust to set vulnerable populations up for success. A great background check for teachers should check that an applicant’s education, employment history, and certifications qualify them for the position. 

Using professional databases and license boards, trusted background check companies will conduct a verifications search to ensure that a teacher’s educator certifications, employment and education history, and past work performance match the expectations set by their resume. To be extra confident, look for a background screening provider who conducts verifications searches with comprehensive due diligence.

3. Post-Hire Screening & Continuous Monitoring for Teachers

The previous services combine to make the perfect pre-employment background check for teachers. However, these precautions do not account for behavioral changes in school employees past the initial hire. That’s why schools need a post-hire background screening strategy that’s just as strong as the one they use when hiring teachers. Luckily, the latest innovation in background screening makes it easier than ever to keep up with school employees’ criminal records. 

Continuous criminal monitoring scans nationwide databases 24/7, checking for teachers at your school and notifying you immediately if a change to a school employee’s record is found. Employee monitoring will check for evidence of a teacher committing a sex offense, violent crime, theft, and more. This gives schools ample time to take action before the teacher can come into contact with students again. Additionally, a teacher monitoring background check strategy may also include options for random drug screening program management, as well as continuous motor vehicle records searches.

A Background Screening Solution Designed with School Safety in Mind

Background checks for teachers must be thorough and well-designed. Background screening providers who have the right compliance team, industry expertise, and accreditations are your best bet at finding a great teacher background check. At InfoMart, we have been in the background screening industry for over 30 years.

Since then, our FCRA-certified compliance experts have worked with multiple schools across the country to deliver trusted, fully customizable background checks for teachers. Whenever your educational institution needs help along the way, you’ll have a dedicated customer service representative ready to help. That’s what we call the InfoMart Difference.

Interested? We’d love to help you keep your school safe. Reach out here or email us if you would like more details or have any questions.

When looking for a new background screening provider for your school, there are some green (and red) flags to look out for. Download our Education Background Screening Vendor Checklist to make sure you’re choosing the right background check partner.

I would love to hear from you and connect; add me on LinkedIn to keep in touch!

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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