School Board Members Now Required To Undergo Criminal Background Checks

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TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation to bar those convicted of crimes from serving on school boards and requiring board members to undergo criminal checks has been signed into law.

Under the law (A-444), any person elected or appointed to a board of education will be disqualified from serving if they have been convicted of any crime that, under existing law, will disqualify them from being employed in a public school.

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The bill signed by the governor is a slightly revised version of one that passed the Legislature in February but was conditionally vetoed by the governor. The conditional veto added language barring people convicted of bias intimidation and any fourth degree crime involving a child.

The law also would require each member of a board of education to undergo a criminal history background check within 30 days of being elected or appointed.

The cost of the criminal background check will be the responsibility of the school board member, but unexpended campaign funds may be used in the case of an elected member.

Furthermore, it amends the oath of office taken by new board members to include a specific declaration that the member is not disqualified from service due to conviction of one of those crimes.

Any member who falsely swears that he or she is not disqualified would face penalties of up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.

The crimes included under the law include any crime of the first or second degree; an offense involving the manufacture, transportation, sale, possession, distribution or habitual use of a controlled dangerous substance or “drug paraphernalia; a crime involving the use of force or the threat of force to or upon a person or property including, but not limited to, robbery, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, arson, manslaughter and murder; a third degree crime, or any of the following crimes: recklessly endangering another person; terroristic threats; criminal restraint; luring, enticing child into motor vehicle structure or isolated area; causing or risking widespread injury or damage; criminal mischief; burglary; threats and other improper influence; perjury and false swearing; resisting arrest; any crime of the fourth degree involving a victim who is a minor; or conspiracy to commit or an attempt to commit any of the aforesaid crimes.


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