New York - Jewish Schools in NY Ignore Fingerprint Checks
New York - Fewer than 1 percent of the state’s 1,900 private schools run fingerprint checks on job applicants to screen for sex offenses and other criminal behavior, The Post has learned.
Statewide, only 17 private schools have submitted fingerprints since a 2007 law granted them the right, says the state Education Department.
Unlike public schools, private schools are not required by law to do extensive background checks. The 2007 law stopped short of making it mandatory.
There are approximately 380 private Jewish schools in New York State, attended by about 124,000 children.
Yet, in nearly three years, only one Jewish school, the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, has submitted fingerprints to SED.
Fingerprinting is a far more reliable way than a simple name check to look for priors, said lawyer Elliot Pasik, a member of an advocacy group that wants Albany to require all schools to fingerprint.
“Many do run applicants’ names, but there are a lot of mistakes with that. People can give false identities, for example. It’s very imperfect,” said Pasik, who filed a (PDF) Freedom of Information request with the state to find out which private schools ran fingerprints since 2007.
But state officials note that, so far, none of the background checks run by the Education Department for private schools has yielded an applicant with a criminal history.
According to a press release issued by Pasik Shortly after the optional nonpublic school background check law passed, a national umbrella group of yeshivas, Torah U’Mesorah, issued a memorandum in July 2007 to all of its approximate 700 member yeshivas urging them to do employee background checks. The memo notified them about the new law in New York State. Torah U’Mesorah is strongly connected to Agudath Israel of America, a national group dominated by ultra-orthodox rabbis.
Notwithstanding that memo, it now appears that the optional background check law is being largely ignored. The one yeshiva taking advantage of it, North Shore Hebrew Academy, is considered a modern orthodox school.
Neither Torah U’Mesorah nor Agudath Israel are known to be auditing the yeshivas for determining whether background checks are being performed, nor sanctioning them for failure to do so.
Of concern to advocates and parents is that the Catholic school system in New York is virtually 100 per cent compliant with a system of doing background checks based on names, through a private company, Choicepoint. Torah U’Mesorah and Agudath Israel have not established such a system.
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