Yeshivos Urged to Do New Employee Background Checks


517043149zkagih_fsA recently implemented New York State law that enables nonpublic schools to take steps to avoid hiring new employees with previous criminal records was the subject of Agudath Israel of America’s most recent communication with yeshivos across the state. A state law mandating criminal history and background checks for applicants for teacher certification and public school employment has been in effect since 2000. The checks entail fingerprinting applicants through the state’s online system and running the prints through those in the databases of the FBI and the State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.Under the 2000 law, however, yeshivos and other nonpublic schools could not take advantage of the state’s online fingerprinting system. This was changed in 2006, when the law was expanded to allow non-public schools to mandate fingerprint-supported criminal history and background checks for prospective employees through the state’s online system. The new law was slated to go into effect in July, 2007, but in fact implementation of the optional fingerprinting programs for nonpublic school employees was delayed until late last year.

Through its division of yeshiva services, under the direction of Mrs. Deborah Zachai, Agudath Israel sends out frequent newsletters and memoranda to yeshivos across the country, informing them of the applicable government laws, regulations, and funding or service programs. It is most recent mailing to yeshivos in New York, Agudath Israel provided information about the new fingerprinting law and its implementation.

The Agudath Israel memo goes beyond simply providing information, however; it affirmatively encourages yeshivos to take advantage of the opportunity created by the new law to opt into the state fingerprinting system. This recommendation reflects the guidance of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, as well as the policy of Torah Umesorah, to encourage yeshivos to perform background checks on all prospective employees to help ensure the safety of children and minimize potential liability for schools.

Says Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president: “Unfortunately, we have become all too familiar in recent years with allegations of school employees engaging in criminally abusive conduct toward vulnerable children. We have worked together with Torah Umesorah to encourage yeshivos to institute a variety of steps to protect children from such conduct. This new state law is by no means a panacea, but it could prove to be a useful tool in weeding out prospective employees who have no place in a school setting.

“We hope yeshivos will take advantage of the opportunity.”

{Elisha Newscenter}