Lawmakers Ask Education Chief To Extend Deadline For Complying With School Board Member Background Check Law

TRENTON — Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Jerry Green and Assembly Education Chairman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. on Friday asked the state’s acting education commissioner to extend the deadline for compliance with the new criminal background check law for school board members.

“While we firmly stand behind this law and its intention, we are concerned about reports regarding the implementation of the law,” wrote Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) and Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It appears that some board members who have not yet complied were unaware of the requirements and the deadlines for compliance. Additionally, some were unable to comply based on the backlogs for fingerprinting.”

Green and Diegnan encouraged acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf “to provide flexibility to individual board members who request additional time to comply.”

“The purpose of the law is to protect our children from board of education members with a criminal history, not to remove dedicated members who did not comply in a timely manner,” Green and Diegnan wrote.

The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the lawmakers’ request.

“Any school board member who made an effort to schedule fingerprinting appointments before the Dec. 31 deadline, but who could not complete the process due to scheduling difficulties or other factors, should not be declared ineligible for office,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director.

”Up to now, only nine local school board members and three charter school trustees have been disqualified due to background checks showing previous criminal convictions  Therefore, allowing more time for the remaining board members and trustees to complete the process should not pose a serious concern.”

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