College of Education and Human Sciences
Background Check Policy
The purpose of this policy is to define the Professional Education Unit’s policy and procedure for background checks. For a variety of reasons, students enrolled in a teacher education program, a program that requires off-campus field-based assignments such as observation, methods, practicum, or student teaching in P-12 schools, are required to submit to a criminal background check.
The Professional Education Unit requires background checks as a condition of admission because:
- students have significant interaction with minors and vulnerable populations;
- students who cannot successfully complete a background check may not, in some instances, be eligible for licensure or employment upon graduation.
Background Check at Point of Admission
- Adopted Fall 2009: Beginning fall 2009, all students at The University of Southern Mississippi who apply for admission to teacher education must undergo a background check. Students who apply for a Gold Card and have passed the background checking process are eligible for admission to teacher education, pending satisfaction of other admission requirements. Students who pass the background check process will be issued a Background Check badge and must be able to produce the badge when visiting P-12 schools. Teacher candidates issued Gold Cards prior to fall 2009 and currently enrolled in Southern Miss teacher education programs, as well as Southern Miss students enrolled in teacher education field or clinical experiences that do not require a Gold Card also undergo a background check as part of University policy.
- Amended Fall 2010: Teacher candidates who received Gold Cards prior to fall 2009 and are currently enrolled in the teacher education program, as well as other students at The University of Southern Mississippi who are sent into P-12 schools as a part of University coursework, must undergo a background check. Therefore, any student who is sent into a P-12 school to complete observation, methods, practicum, or student teaching requirements must complete the background check process.
- Amended Fall 2012: It is crucial for students to initiate the background check process no later than the first week of the semester because it takes approximately one week to receive background check results.
- Amended Fall 2013, no background check requests will be processed after the second week of the semester. Students that fail to meet the second week deadline will be forced to drop classes that require a background check.
Policy for Flagged Background Checks
This Criminal Background Check Policy is consistent with state law Sections 1 (2) - Section 2, of SECTION 37-9-17, Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended by Senate Bill 2658. Refusal to provide consent for a criminal background investigation will result in denial of admission. Further, failure of any portion of a background check may be the basis for barring the student from admission to a teacher education program depending on the findings. The existence of a conviction does not automatically disqualify an individual from admission. Flagged background checks are reviewed by the Professional Education Council (PEC) via the Dismissal, Appeals, and Remediation (DAR) Committee. The DAR committee is responsible for reviewing any flagged background checks and deciding if a background check identifies issues that preclude admission. The DAR Committee may grant waivers for such mitigating circumstances, which shall include, but not be limited to: (a) age at which the crime was committed; (b) circumstances surrounding the crime; (c) length of time since the conviction and criminal history since the conviction; (d) work history; (e) current employment and character references; (f) successful efforts toward rehabilitation; (g) other evidence demonstrating the ability of the person to perform the field experiences responsibilities competently and that the person does not pose a threat to the health or safety of the children at the school. In adherence with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) standards, DAR ensures a student’s flagged background check does not interfere with a student’s ability to uphold the unit’s mission as well as meet the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions of the program. DAR may either write the student a letter regarding their background check or ask that the student come in for a meeting with the committee to discuss the findings. Should a student be admitted to a University of Southern Mississippi professional education program with a flagged background check and later be denied license by the State of Mississippi or elsewhere, the University is not held responsible. Students are encouraged to educate themselves on licensing requirements. Additionally, a student who does not pass the background check might be advised to seek another major.
Process for Flagged Background Check
DAR may either write the student a letter regarding their background check or ask that the student come in for a meeting with the committee to discuss the findings. Standardized letter templates include:
- Letter Template 1: Student admitted but committee states it will be in the best interest for the student to get their record expunged
- Letter Template 2: Admission contingent upon student expunging their record first
- Letter Template 3: Committee requests a meeting with the student to discuss their background check and student signs “Student Acknowledgement Form of Background Check Procedures”
Policy for Automatic Denial or Dismissal
All offenses will be considered as potential disqualifiers, but those instances mentioned specifically in Mississippi code will be considered as immediate disqualifiers. The applicant shall not be eligible to participate in field experiences sponsored by the University of Southern Mississippi if such fingerprinting or criminal records checks disclose a criminal history of conviction, pending indictment, guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere, whether misdemeanor or felony, that bears upon an individual’s fitness to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children, including but not limited to the following offenses: possession, sale or distribution of drugs, murder, manslaughter, robbery, rape (capital or statutory), sexual battery, sexual assault, kidnapping, assault with intent to ravish, exploitation of a child, contributing to the delinquency of a child, child abuse, child neglect, condonation of child abuse or neglect, abandonment or desertion of a child, fondling, carnal knowledge of a child, child molestation, incest, child endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, sodomy or unnatural intercourse, adultery or fornication between teacher and pupil, neglect of a vulnerable adult, sexual or physical abuse of a vulnerable adult, sexual servitude of a minor, human trafficking, obscenity, filming another without permission where there is an expectation of privacy, arson, larceny, burglary, gratification of lust or aggravated assault which has not been reversed on appeal or for which a pardon has not been granted, or any other offense resulting in a conviction in another jurisdiction which, if committed in this state, would be deemed to be such a crime without regard to its designation elsewhere; or any conviction of conspiracy to commit, accessory to commission, or attempt to commit any offense listed in this section. Students will still have the right to appeal to the DAR Committee.
Background Check as Needed Policy
In addition to admission, The University of Southern Mississippi reserves the right to request an additional background check at any point in a student's program of enrollment in professional education. If the student has had an arrest or conviction after their first background check at admission to the program, they could be dismissed. As stated in the “Disciplinary Procedures for Prohibited Conduct” section of the USM Student Handbook, there are set policies for such conduct. The DAR Committee and the Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences will follow all University policies and procedures to ensure every student is provided due process.
Procedure and Billing:
In addition to meeting the academic requirements necessary for admission to a teacher education program and pre-service licensure, students must also pass a criminal background check. The University of Southern Mississippi has selected CastleBranch as the vendor authorized to provide this service. The cost is $42.00 (credit or debit card required) and usually takes 3-5 business days to return results. Ideally, a background check is completed just prior to admission to a teacher education program; however, in some cases, a background check must be completed prior to taking certain pre-teacher education courses, which require observation of and/or interaction with minors. Therefore, the appropriate course instructor, program faculty advisor, and/or program student support specialist will tell you when to complete this step. When instructed to do so, complete the following steps to create a CastleBranch account and submit your order:
1. Enter the following URL in your Internet browser (Chrome or Internet Explorer is recommended) - https://mycb.castlebranch.com/
2. In the ‘Place Order/Package Code’ textbox (upper right-hand corner), enter UA23 and click ‘Go’
3. Review the package details, agree to the Terms and Conditions, click ‘Continue’
5. Follow the steps to place your order, create your myCB account, and enter your personal and student information (use your usm.edu email address)
6. Follow the steps to submit your payment
7. You will receive an email receipt once your payment is processed
8. You will then receive a second email, which you must sign (electronically) and submit before your background check can be conducted
9. When your background check has been completed, you will receive a third email, which will include instructions for forwarding your results to your instructor (if needed)