Here is a guest post from Rebecca Gray:
Texas College Students under Greater Scrutiny Following Passage of Background Check Law
Background checks provide protection and assurance for employers and others verifying personal information. In business, the practice is used to hedge against employee problems arising from inconsistent workplace behavior, by verifying the information job applicants submit to human resources departments. A new Texas law extends the right to conduct background checks, applying it to college students living on campus.
By vetting job candidates thoroughly, employers avoid future surprises in three important areas: Workplace safety, theft and loss, and employer hiring liability. Theft and fraud occur at all levels of employment, representing untold losses for corporations each year. Whether items stolen from the workplace, or cash embezzled through white-collar scams, theft hits corporations hard enough to warrant pre-employment screening for most jobs.
Liability is another key issue finding its way into debates about background checks and personal privacy. Employers have responsibilities to staffers, as well as customers and clients: Providing worthy employees is an extension of that responsibility, starting with formal background screenings. Workplace incidents involving staffers are minimized when due diligence is applied, especially when background screenings filter-out potentially dangerous candidates.
Violence is present in all walks of life, further calling for background checks under certain circumstances. While the practice was oft limited to employers seeking to reduce incidents of workplace violence, Texas recently empowered college campuses to conduct background screenings for students wanting to live on campus.
What's in the Law?
In response to the same safety concerns driving employers to conduct formal background checks before hiring workers, Texas Governor, Rick Perry, recently approved legislation allowing college campuses to engage in similar screenings.
The March, 2013 law applies to students seeking housing on campus. Support for such legislation continues to grow nationally, as more and more campus violence unfolds in the United States. While the Texas law empowers educators to legally investigate past conduct of housing applicants, it does not mandate that campuses do so.
Authored by Tommy Williams, the bill responds to emerging information about the histories of some Texas college campus residents. Criminal infractions uncovered on residents' histories, including sexual assault, prompted lawmakers to add the bill to enhanced safety measures already proposed for Texas campuses. Residents were also found to be accused of assault, theft and burglary.
The law mirrors legislation initiated a couple years ago, before stalling when the legislative session expired. Background checks are extended only to public schools under the law, which does not influence private institutional policies. The most recent call to action is thought to have been instigated by officials at Kilgore College.
Implementing the new Texas Law
The new law does not require colleges to conduct background checks. Instead, it opens the legal door for them to do so, when they feel it is warranted. To implement the policy, a university's designated representative - usually its police chief or housing officer - would be the only person allowed to view records obtained through background checks.
Access to the Department of Public Safety's online database would be reserved exclusively for vetting candidates prior to a semester's commencement, after which the records must be destroyed by university officials.
While the new law is in its infancy, the long-term impact of allowing college campuses to conduct background checks for on-campus housing applicants can only lead to reduced incidents of violence on Texas college campuses.
This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for BackgroundChecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email: GrayRebecca14 (at) gmail (dot) com.
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