Legislation Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green and Assemblymen Jack Conners and Herb Conaway, M.D. sponsored to bar those convicted of crimes from serving on school boards and requiring board members to undergo criminal checks received final legislative approval on Monday.
The bill (A-444) passed the Assembly unanimously in June and was approved 36-0 by the Senate on Monday.
“If we prohibit someone from teaching in a classroom because of past convictions, then they definitely should be prohibited from presiding over the education of an entire school district,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “It’s a common sense change that is long overdue.”
Under the bill, any person elected or appointed to a board of education would be disqualified from serving if they have been convicted of any crime that, under existing law, would disqualify them from being employed in a public school.
“People guilty of serious crimes should not be the ones to decide the educational future of our children,” said Conners (D-Camden/Burlington). “Our students deserve an education system that is supported by the integrity of its members.”
“A good education is the foundation upon which our lives our built,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “We owe it to both students and parents to only have the most qualified individuals presiding over the education future of our children.”
The bill also would require each member of a board of education to undergo a criminal history background check within 30 days of being elected or appointed.
The cost of the criminal background check will be the responsibility of the school board member, but unexpended campaign funds may be used in the case of an elected member.
Furthermore, it would amend the oath of office taken by new board members to include a specific declaration that the member is not disqualified from service due to conviction of one of those crimes.
Any member who falsely swears that he or she is not disqualified would face penalties of up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.
The bill now goes to the governor.
The crimes included under the bill include any crime of the first or second degree; an offense involving the manufacture, transportation, sale, possession, distribution or habitual use of a controlled dangerous substance or “drug paraphernalia; a crime involving the use of force or the threat of force to or upon a person or property including, but not limited to, robbery, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, arson, manslaughter and murder; a third degree crime, or any of the following crimes: recklessly endangering another person; terroristic threats; criminal restraint; luring, enticing child into motor vehicle structure or isolated area; causing or risking widespread injury or damage; criminal mischief; burglary; threats and other improper influence; perjury and false swearing; resisting arrest; any crime of the fourth degree involving a victim who is a minor; or conspiracy to commit or an attempt to commit any of the aforesaid crimes.