New York - Private School Fingerprinting Bill Stalled In NY

Published on: June 4th, 2012 at 12:04 PM
By: VIN News by Sandy Eller

New York - With just over two weeks left in the current New York State legislative session, a bill that would require background checks and fingerprinting of all private school employees continues to languish in Albany.

No public hearings have been held on the bill, which was introduced this past February by Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and has yet to be voted on. The fingerprinting bill has no co-sponsor in the assembly and no sponsor in the state senate.

Fingerprinting and background checks became mandatory for New York public school employees when Project SAVE was created in 2000, following the 1999 Columbine massacre. While several states, including California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, require private schools to follow those same security measures, it is optional for New York state private schools as previously reported on VIN News. The only Jewish school in the state that requires its employees to undergo background checks and fingerprinting is the North Shore Hebrew Academy located in Great Neck and of all 1,900 private schools in New York, only nineteen employ these stricter security measures for screening their employees.

With the number of abuse cases growing annually, Elliot Pasik, president of Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, calls the lack of action on the bill “inexplicable.”

“It is a mystery why there has been no movement on this important piece of legislation,” Pasik told VIN News. “I don’t believe the issue here is a monetary one. I believe that with the vast amount of philanthropic funding available in the Jewish world, there are communal funds available to cover the cost of this project.”

Instead, Pasik feels that the lack of support from the ultra-Orthodox sector, particularly the Agudah, is to blame for the lack of action.

“I think that ideologically the Agudah does not want to be subject to government regulation,” said Pasik. “They have been completely silent on this issue and that is why no progress is being made.”

Hikind has received letters of support for the fingerprinting bill from Ohel Children's and Family Services, Rabbinical Council of America, Children's Health Care Is a Legal Duty, Prevent Child Abuse New York, and The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the oldest child protection agency in the world, founded in 1875, but disagreed that there is a lack of action on the fingerprinting bill.

“So much happens in the last three weeks of the legislative session, sometimes more than in the earlier five months,” explained Hikind. “We are working very hard to make the fingerprinting bill a reality but we don’t want to create a tremendous financial burden on the yeshivas, many of whom are already having difficulty just paying their teachers’ salaries.”

According to Hikind, efforts are underway to introduce legislation that will allow private schools to use funding that is already in place for bookkeeping and other internal expenses for fingerprinting and background checks.

“We are being realistic,” said Hikind. “This is a process that requires more than one step. Practically every yeshiva is behind on their bills. Right now we are concentrating on getting funding in place so that private schools will have the necessary funding for this program. Once we have accomplished that then we can finally work on getting this very important bill passed.”


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