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Ohio State expands background check policy

Courtesy of MCT

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An extension to Ohio State’s background check policy is intended to make campus a safer place for children.
Under OSU’s new policy, all employees and volunteers who work with minors in university-sponsored 4-H youth development programs, child care and overnight youth camps are subject to background checks at the time of hire.
OSU spokeswoman Liz Cook said these background checks consist of fingerprinting from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and are required once every four years after an individual is hired.
Employees and volunteers who have a break in service will be required to undergo another background check at the time of rehire, while those who work with overnight camps and child care will also be required to complete an annual “Statement of NonConviction” from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Cook said in an email that OSU is “dedicated to the education and development of children,” and this policy will help ensure the safety of children with university development programs.
“Securing their safety while engaging in university-sponsored programs is of the utmost importance,” Cook said.
Volunteers under the age of 18 working with children are still required to complete background checks, but Cook said parental consent is obtained prior to completing background checks on minors.
During a March 25 interview with The Lantern editorial staff, OSU President E. Gordon Gee said recent events both within and outside the university made this policy necessary.
“We have a responsibility to particularly younger people on this campus to make sure that they are, when they’re here, that they’re safe, they’re secure, that we don’t have predators,” Gee said.
A sexual imposition was reported in Drackett Tower during a youth wrestling camp in July. According to OSU Police, that incident involved two minors, but neither was affiliated with the university.
Gee made specific mention of crimes that occurred at Penn State as a factor that inspired the policy. Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted in June on 45 counts of sexual abuse on 10 boys between 1994-2009.
In the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Penn State installed its own revised background check policy in July, requiring all final job candidates and third-party employees offered employment to undergo background checks, including a criminal history check and child abuse record check, before being approved to work at the university.
According to a previous Lantern article, the university is aiming to further protect the children involved in the 660 youth programs at OSU.
Gee, who has been a university president since 1981 and is in his second term as OSU president since returning in October 2007, said extensive background check policies were not necessary in his early years as a university president, but that the world has “changed dramatically” in recent years. Gee previously served as president from 1990 to 1997.
“It is a different world you live in than the one that I grew up in,” Gee said. “We have to have limitations in order to be able to have a protected society … I think that’s the way it is with the university.”
That said, some students questioned why the policy of background checking all employees and volunteers who work with minors was not already in place.
“I think in principle it’s a very good idea,” said Jesse Hill, a first-year in computer and information science. “I’m kind of shocked it wasn’t (already) in place, because children are very important.”
Gee said increasing the protection for children on campus “makes common sense.”
“If I were a father of a young son or daughter, I’d want to make that happen,” Gee said. “I’m a grandfather, I have identical twins (granddaughters), and I want to make sure that’s the case for them.”

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