For student teachers, CDE recommends that educator preparation programs (traditional or alternative) and school districts placing student teachers or alternative candidates utilize a fingerprint-based criminal history check conducted by the school district under the VECHS program as described below. The school district is ultimately responsible for ensuring that student teachers demonstrate the moral and ethical alignment expected of an educator.
CDE does not possess the legal authority to process fingerprint cards for the purpose of a national fingerprint based criminal history check for student teachers. The statute that governs a national criminal history check for educator licensing is only when one fully qualifies for a license or authorization issued by CDE.
Educator preparation programs should not require their students to pass a background check through CDE for student teaching purposes only, as CDE does not have the authority to release background information to educator preparation entities. CDE can only conduct background history checks for fully qualified educator applicants.
Student teachers or alternative candidates should be fingerprinted under the Volunteer Employee Criminal History Services (VECHS) program. The rules and regulations for the VECHS program apply to any public or private, for-profit, non-profit or volunteer organization that provides care or care placement services to any child, elderly person or person with disabilities for whom the organization provides care.
For student teachers in Colorado, either the school district that will place the student teacher or the educator preparation program (college/university or alternative designated agency) that is supplying the student teacher can submit student teacher fingerprint cards under the VECHS program (or both). However, results of that check can only be sent to the agency that submitted the fingerprint card, not both unless both submitted fingerprint cards. School districts and educator preparation programs must work together on a plan or agreement making it clear which agency will be submitting fingerprint cards on the student teacher. If the educator preparation program submits the fingerprints, that educator preparation program will be responsible for ensuring that the student teacher that is being placed is fit to be in an environment with children and that proper notifications are made to the school district on criminal history and subsequent arrest reports. Examples:
- If the educator preparation program wants to conduct the fingerprint-based background check under the VECHS program, here are the steps:
- Create an account with CBI for use with the VECHS program (this only needs to be done once per agency).
- Submit the student's fingerprints along with the required fingerprint processing fee (a fee applies each time a different fingerprint card is submitted to CBI).
- Results from the FBI/CBI will be returned to the educator preparation program (results and all future subsequent arrests will be sent to this agency until that agency notifies CBI to stop sending such results).
- It will be the responsibility of the educator preparation program to notify the school district of the initial results, as well as any future subsequent arrest reports, and to ascertain the student teachers fitness to be in an environment with children.
- When the student teacher has completed their preparation program and now qualifies for licensure, they will at that time submit a set of fingerprints and fingerprint fee to the CBI specifically for CDE for licensure.
- If the school district wants to conduct the fingerprint-based background check under the VECHS program, here are the steps:
- Create an account with CBI for use with the VECHS program (this only needs to be done once per district). As a school district, you can also print under the volunteer statute and may already have an account with CBI. Contact CBI with any questions you may have.
- Submit the student teacher's fingerprints along with the required fingerprint processing fee (a fee applies each time a different fingerprint card is submitted to CBI).
- Results from the FBI/CBI will be returned to the school district (results and all future subsequent arrests will be sent to the school district until that district notifies CBI to stop sending such results).
- The school district will now ascertain the student teachers fitness to be in an environment with children.
- When the student teacher has completed their educator preparation program and now qualifies for licensure, they will at that time submit a set of fingerprints and fingerprint fee to the CBI specifically for CDE for licensure. The school district will continue to receive subsequent arrest reports until they have notified the CBI that they no longer want to receive such reports. CDE will supply subsequent reports to each school district as we currently do or via the eLicensing Verification Access.
Third party background services should not be used to determine if a student teacher should be placed in the classroom. While these services might show some arrest information that is useful for the educator preparation agency, it is not the same as a fingerprint-based national criminal history background check through the FBI.
Fingerprint cards should only be submitted to CBI with the Colorado Department of Education’s codes and statutes when an educator has completed their educator preparation program and is ready to apply for an initial license.
Does this mean that a student teacher may be fingerprinted and pay a fee more than 1 time? Yes. Each fingerprint card submitted to the CBI is pursuant to a statute that requires the fingerprint-based criminal history check and carries a fee in order for that card to be processed by the CBI and the FBI. If you are fingerprinted for the VECHS program for student teaching, you will again submit a new set of fingerprints specifically for CDE when you qualify for licensure. If you wish to be a realtor on the side, there is a statute in which you must submit a new set of fingerprints specifically for that statute and so on. Since fingerprint submissions are specific to a statute, fingerprint results are not transferable.
Is this new or did something change?
This is not new*. The change that educator preparation programs and districts are noticing is that CDE has clarified certain terminology. For example, CDE used to post a status of "Fingerprints Met" on the account when we received CBI/FBI results on an applicant. The sole intent of the "Fingerprints Met" status has always been to indicate that either we received fingerprint cards or fingerprint results only. It was not never there to indicate that a background check had been conducted and cleared. When we learned that educator preparation programs and districts took that status to mean that an applicant has "passed" the background check, we modified our process.
Since CDE can only conduct background investigations on applicants that apply and qualify for a credential, when criminal history information is returned, we post "Enforcement Review Needed" or there will be no status at all. If we receive clean results from the CBI/FBI, then we post the status of "Cleared FP Background Check". In cases where we have to investigate a criminal history, we only begin that investigation after the submission of a qualifying application. This is necessary because when we seek to deny an application we must provide due process to the applicant that works in conjunction with the Administrative Courts. This process can take months and in some cases years before a final disposition is made.
*The aforementioned VECHS program is new to the CBI and was launched in the fall of 2016. Prior to that student teachers could have been fingerprinted under the Volunteers for Children Act (CRS 24-72-305.3), or non-licensed staff (CRS 22-32-109.8), depending on school district policy.