Leon County School Board Considers Criminal Background Checks

It's an effort to keep sexual predators and violent criminals out of the school and is just one of10 construction projects underway right now at Leon County schools.

The School Board is considering a plan that would require anyone who works on school campuses, construction crews included, to undergo more thorough background checks.

Sheila Costigan, Leon County School Board chairwoman, says, "We need to make our campuses safer so parents can feel good that when their kids set foot, no matter what level of contractor it is or who the contractor is, that they have secured background checks."

Hammering out the details could take some time. Everyone, even day laborers, would have to be registered and cleared by the school district in advance. With a cost of up to $81 per worker, it would admittedly be more expensive for contractors, and ultimately for taxpayers.

Carol Rippee, president of Rippee Construction, says, "I think the bottom line is going up a minor amount, but it's the safety of the kids."

Houston Deese, job superintendent, says, "At least we know when they come in here checked, we know what you've got to work with. Makes you fell a whole lot better when they're out here with children."

Many on-campus workers are already subject to a Florida criminal background check. The new policy up for debate would require some to be fingerprinted and undergo a national background check.

The School Board must still discuss the expanded screenings and whether to formally adopt them.

This policy clarifies the rules for everyone from construction workers to foster grandparents to military recruiters. A public hearing and vote are slated for April 26.