Court will re­view case on univer­sity back­ground checks

The Citizens' Voice - - STATE - BY MARK SCOLFORO

HAR­RIS­BURG — Penn­syl­va­nia’s high­est court will de­cide whether the sys­tem of state-owned univer­si­ties tram­pled on fac­ulty union rights by uni­lat­er­ally re­quir­ing crim­i­nal back­ground checks and re­ports of ar­rests for se­ri­ous crimes within 72 hours.

The state Supreme Court this week ac­cepted an ap­peal by the 14-school State Sys­tem of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion of a lower-court de­ci­sion that said schools may only man­date the checks and ar­rest re­ports for teach­ers who are likely to en­counter mi­nor chil­dren not en­rolled as fresh­men or prospec­tive stu­dents tour­ing cam­pus.

The pol­icy, en­acted in re­sponse to the Jerry San­dusky child mo­lesta­tion scan­dal at Penn State, was lim­ited in an April de­ci­sion by Com­mon­wealth Court so that many pro­fes­sors would not be cov­ered by it. The Supreme Court said it will re­view that de­ci­sion and con­sider the schools’ ar­gu­ment that the pol­icy “served the pub­lic in­ter­est in pro­tect­ing mi­nors.”

The univer­si­ties have ar­gued it was within their man­age­rial pow­ers to make all em­ploy­ees fol­low the pol­icy, not just those who are likely to en­counter chil­dren on cam­pus. The unions say any such pol­icy should be ham­mered out a part of con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We are not say­ing that we don’t be­lieve that there’s room for more back­ground checks,” said Ken Mash, pres­i­dent of the union, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Penn­syl­va­nia State Col­lege and Univer­sity Fac­ul­ties, said Fri­day. “What we are say­ing very clearly is that when you have a con­tract, that has to be ne­go­ti­ated.”

State sys­tem spokesman Kenn Mar­shall said the schools were pleased the court ac­cepted the case.

“The health, safety and wel­fare of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual who comes onto our cam­puses, whether a stu­dent, staff mem­ber or a vis­i­tor, is para­mount,” Mar­shall said. “We be­lieve the Pro­tec­tion of Mi­nors pol­icy and all of its com­po­nents is an im­por­tant part of our ef­fort to pro­vide safe, se­cure cam­pus en­vi­ron­ments.”

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