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Fingerprinting Expanded for People Working with Children

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The practice of fingerprinting and background checks have been around for awhile in the public schools. But some private schools are taking lessons in careful hiring.

Anyone who wants to teach in a New York public school is, by now, familiar with the routine. Ink stained fingers, coupled with a slight feeling of humiliation, just go along with the application. But a rise in school related child molestation cases is making some private schools also turn to the ink pad.

The Community Music School recently ran an ad in the News seeking a music teacher. Fingerprinting was listed among the job requirements. Executive Director Linda Mabry says some of their after-school programs with public schools require it. But Mabry believes fingerprinting is a growing trend.

"Our partners in the human service agencies discuss it a great deal. This is something many of them have been doing for a long time, as well," said Mabry. "I think everyone is just very concerned for the safety and the comfort of students, and parents, certainly, as well."

No where has child safety been more an issue than in the Catholic Church. Diane Vigress is Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. She says new teachers must be certified - -which means they must be fingerprinted. But Vigress says they go further. The Diocese participates in the Church's "Protecting God's Children" program. She says it looks for more than a criminal record.

"We have a full training program that helps people protect children, helps the people who are dealing with children everyday, to know exactly what to do, so that the abuser stands out in a crowd, and we can make sure our children are safe," said Vigress.

Vigress admits that certification is not required for existing teachers who are "grand-fathered in." But she says the Diocese is gradually completing its own background checks on all teachers and staff.