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Which Background Checks Are Done for Teachers?

If you have ever wondered what background checks are done on teachers in your child’s school, you need to read this article. As you will see, the system in the USA is deeply flawed and some states are much more conscientious than others. But there is a way you can take matters into your own hands and find out about any teacher for yourself.

Being a teacher is one of the most trusted jobs there is. But with such responsibility also comes increased scrutiny and standards too. This is why all US teachers have to pass a background check before they can take up a job.

The precise nature of these background checks varies depending on which state you are in. Unfortunately, the quality of the checks can also vary significantly too.

In this article, we will look at this issue in more detail, explain what an official background check for teachers looks at, and consider why they differ from state to state.

We will also show you how you can run a background check on your child’s teacher and explain why this check could turn up things that the official check has missed.

What is a background check?

When we use the term background check, we are referring to a website or service which checks through various public records to find out information about people.

It is common practice for a lot of businesses and employers to run background checks on prospective staff. But much of the information they consider is in the public domain and available for anyone to take a look at.

Before the internet age dawned, sifting through this information took forever, but most records have now been digitized and a whole host of different background checking websites have sprung up. These sites can sort through this data in super-fast times and will often deliver in minutes information that would have taken you months to pull together manually.

The kind of information a background check can unearth includes:

  • Employment history
  • Work authorization
  • Credit history
  • Financial records
  • Criminal records (state, county, and city)
  • Education history (high school and college)
  • License details
  • Driving record
  • Social media profiles

When looked at in isolation, much of this information is meaningless. But when it is all put together, it can give us a very clear insight into a person.

This is why a whole industry has sprung up around running background checks. These days, people use background checks for all kinds of different things including:

  • Employment checksmany employers run background checks on prospective staff to make sure their resume checks out and they don’t have anything on their file that would preclude them from being hired.
  • Tracking down a lost family member or friend – Private detectives have seen a sharp decline because background checks are a really simple way to track down that lost family member or old schoolfriend quickly and easily.
  • Criminal checks – despite what the cartoon says, criminals don’t wear stripy jumpers and carry swag bags. A lot of people worry about the criminal backgrounds of people in their lives and communities and a background check can tell you quickly and easily if anyone you know is hiding a secret criminal past.
  • Finding out more about someone – if there is someone in your life you think might be hiding something or not telling you the truth about themselves, a background check is a perfect way to find out what their secret might be.
  • Checking your own records – there is plenty of information about yourself in the public domain too and someone else might be trying to run a background check on you. It is well worth knowing what information there is about you out there, especially if you are applying for jobs or starting a new relationship. A background checking site will tell you what information about yourself is in the public domain.

What is the most effective background checking site?

There is a difference between publicly available background checking sites that anyone can use and corporate sites that are used by businesses and by states and schools to check teachers.

Corporate sites are restricted by many regulations that govern what companies and schools can and cannot know about prospective staff. Public background checking sites are also regulated but often less so. This means there is a chance that one of these sites might turn up a piece of information missed by a formal background check.

So, if you want to run your own background check on your child’s teacher or anyone else in your life, these are the top two most effective background checking sites to use:

1. Instant CheckMate

Instant Checkmate - Editors choice

Instant CheckMate is a super-fast background checking site that can deliver accurate results to almost any request faster than almost any other site on the market. Speed does not come at the expense of accuracy either. We found Instant Checkmate’s result were consistently accurate. They arrived in a well-designed report which made everything easy to understand and source.

Instant CheckMate prices begin at $34.78 per month or you can choose to pay $27.82 for a three-month subscription. It is not the cheapest site around but if you are looking for information and need it fast, they are well worth the investment.

We were particularly impressed with the Instant CheckMate apps. These are available for Android and iOS devices and, like the desktop dashboard, are easy to navigate and pleasing on the eye. With a really helpful support team in place too, Instant Checkmate is another terrific background checking service.

2. TruthFinder

TruthFinder - Editors choice

TruthFinder is a background checking site which not only offered accurate results but even managed to get things right when we fed it misleading or wrong data to start with. This robust research means that results were unerringly accurate and TruthFinder is a background checking site that really lives up to its name.

We were also really impressed with the TruthFinder customer support service too. It is available on a toll-free number and is available 24/7 meaning you can get help with any problems you may have at any time of the day or night.

TruthFinder generates results fairly quickly and presents its information in reports that look good and are pretty easy to find your way around too. It’s desktop dashboard was also pretty impressive and easy to use too.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Looking for deep insight into your own public record? Try TruthFinder, one of the industry titans. Get the service with our generous reader discount.

Which background checks are done for teachers?

What information is considered as part of a teacher’s background check depends on where in the country you live. The question of who is responsible for running these checks also varies significantly depending on where you are.

In some parts of the USA, teacher background checks are carried out at a state level and it is impossible to secure a teaching certificate in that state without passing a check.

But in other states, background checks are carried out at school district or even individual school level. This approach leaves the system far more open to mistakes and corruption and potentially could put children at greater risk.

The precise information they are looking in these background checks might differ, but there are some common things that are checked almost anywhere:

  • Criminal records – to ensure that prospective teachers do not have a criminal background.
  • Professional license checks – to check existing teacher’s licenses and certification.
  • Education records – to ensure prospective teachers are educated to the necessary level and hold qualifications in relevant subjects.
  • Reference checks – to learn more about their previous jobs.
  • Sex Offender register – to ensure prospective teachers are not on any sex offender or child abuse register.

The USA Today report

Very little had been done to shine a light on the issues with running background checks on teachers until 2017 when USA Today ran an investigative piece that including some fairly shocking revelations.

In their research, they looked at how each US State ran background checks and then graded their processes between A and F.

Only 7 of the 50 states (+ DC) were awarded a grade A, while a staggering 12 states (and DC) received an F.

The A-Grade states were:

  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • Alabama
  • South Carolina
  • Ohio
  • North Dakota
  • Vermont

The F-Grade States were:

  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Louisiana
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Maryland
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • + District of Columbia

The US Today report, which is worth reading in full, set out with the assumption that if a teacher was found unfit to teach in one part of the country, these findings would be shared and applied across the whole country. It isn’t.

While there is a NASDTEC national database of teaching disciplinary actions, it is down to individual states to ensure that information from their state is uploaded accurately, Some states are much better at doing this than others and as a result, it is not unusual for people to slip through the gaps.

As a result, if a teacher is found guilty of misconduct in one state and no longer able to teach there, it is still quite feasible for them to move to another state and find another teaching job.

How to run your own teacher background check

If you happen to live in one of those twelve states, or the many others that scored poorly, those findings will be deeply troubling. After all, these are people you leave your children in the care of all day.

Since the USA Today expose, some states have made improvements so it is worth checking to see if things are now done better where you are. But if you are still not satisfied, there is nothing to stop you taking matters into your own hands and running your own background check.

Background checking sites like the ones we have recommended in this article can find accurate information with an astonishingly small amount of information. Even if you only have the name of a teacher, the school they teach in, and the city where they live, there is a very high chance that these sites will be able to run a full background check and reveal every public record about that individual from across the USA.

These sites can generate results in just a few minutes and when you sign up, you can run multiple searches. This means you can rerun a search if you do make a mistake or turn up the wrong person. It also means you can check every teacher and staff member in your child’s school.

With any luck, such a check will turn up nothing. But that will give you peace of mind that you are leaving your child in safe hands for the day. And if you do find out something, you will have incontrovertible evidence to show to your school or local authorities to back up your case.


Teachers are subjected to background checks for a reason. It is to ensure that the children left in their care are safe. But, as we have seen in this article, the quality of background checks run on teachers varies wildly from state to state.

Information is still not always shared between states and the result of that is individuals who shouldn’t be allowed to teach are still sometimes being allowed into our schools.

In this article, we have explained how you can run your own background checks on teachers in your child’s school to give yourself the peace of mind of knowing everyone in that school is safe to be teaching there.

We have recommended the best background checking sites to use and explained what information you will need to run a search.

Have you used a background checking site to find out about staff at your child’s school? Did you uncover anything that the school or state authorities had missed? What happened? Our readers always appreciate the real-life experiences and insights of other site users, so please do share yours with us using the comment box below.

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