Background Check Policy
We are deeply and profoundly grateful to all the staff who have ever worked to lift up the Vermont Wilderness School. We are grateful to the waters and the lands and the creatures that stand as silent partners in this great work we are engaged in. We’re grateful to all the leaders and parents who have safeguarded the children of the Vermont Wilderness School in the past and who have created past versions of documents like this. We’re also grateful to Macalester College for having such a beautiful sample background check policy that made this work easier.
1. PURPOSE OF BACKGROUND CHECKS
To take steps that contribute to Vermont Wilderness School (hereafter referred to as “VWS”) being able to create safer and more inclusive environments for students, volunteers, community members, staff, and visitors.
2. POLICY STATEMENT
All offers of employment or volunteer positions for staff members will be contingent on successfully completing the VWS background check process unless special dispensation is granted in writing by the Executive Director. Background checks will be conducted using a contracted third party and/or appropriate law enforcement agencies. No costs associated with conducting a background check will be borne by a potential staff member.
Information secured for the purpose of extending, maintaining, or retracting an offer of employment will be confidentially maintained by the VWS Administrator. For the purpose of making decisions, report contents or portions of the content may be shared with appropriate individuals who have a legitimate business need to know as determined by the Executive Director.
Finalists for staff positions will be informed during the pre-employment process that any offer of employment is contingent upon completion of a background check with results acceptable to VWS. Prior to conducting the background check, a written or electronically signed consent will be obtained from the potential staff member. Refusal to authorize the background check will make this person ineligible for a position at VWS.
5. STATEMENT ABOUT BACKGROUND CHECKS AND DISCRIMINATION
Information discovered through the background check process will be used solely for the purpose of evaluating a potential staff member’s suitability for employment and will not be used to discriminate against a finalist on the basis of race, color, religion/creed, sex/gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, genetic information, marital/familial status, disability, military, veteran status, or any other protected status.
6. BACKGROUND CHECK SCOPE
Any staff member who will or plausibly might, as part of their job duties, have unrestricted or unmonitored access to program participants (especially if said participants are under 18) will need to undergo the background check process.
All background checks will encompass:
- Criminal History Check
- Sex Offender Registry Check
VWS will ensure that all background checks are held in compliance with all federal and state statutes, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits organizations from collecting non job-related information from previous employers or other sources. Therefore, the only information that can be collected is that pertaining to the quality and quantity of work performed by the applicant, the applicant’s attendance record, education, and other issues that can impact the workplace.
7. GENERAL PROVISIONS
VWS will not consider arrest information unless the arrest resulted in criminal charges. In such circumstances, the applicant and/or law enforcement agencies will be contacted to obtain further information in order to assess the relevance to the position in question. VWS will consider convictions disclosed by the applicant or revealed via the process to determine if an position offer should be extended, maintained, or withdrawn. The presence of a conviction does not automatically preclude an individual from employment.
VWS reserves the right to rescind any offer of a staff or volunteer position if the nature of or facts related to a conviction and/or the number or frequency of the convictions is inconsistent with employment at an educational institution seeking to provide a safe learning and working environment for its community members, or could harm the reputation of the organization, or relates to the duties and responsibilities of the position.
The prospective staff member has the following rights:
- To know what the background check report says
- To obtain a copy of the report
- To challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information in the report
- To know if the reason for not being hired is a result of the background check.
8. RELEVANCE OF CONVICTIONS
A conviction will not automatically preclude an individual from employment consideration. VWS will consider various factors in evaluating whether a conviction disclosed by an applicant warrants revoking a conditional offer:
- Nature and frequency of the offense(s),
- Time since conviction,
- Completion of sentence or any other remediation,
- Relevancy to the position for which the candidate is being considered, and
- Any facts or special circumstances that would support a special exception or special consideration of criminal convictions.
However, as VWS is committed to providing safer environments for its students and employees, the following convictions will typically result in the withdrawal of a volunteer or employment offer in the absence of exceptional facts that support special consideration.
- Criminal vehicular murder and injury
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Simple and/or aggravated robbery
- Theft and/or burglary
- Terroristic threats
- Violation of a harassment and/or stalking statute
- Applicant fills out the Background Check Consent Form upon receiving a contingent job offer.
- Background checks must be completed as a condition of employment prior to the individual beginning work (unless exempted per Section 2 of this document).
- VWS may request additional information from the staff member in order to run the background check.
- VWS will work with a third party vendor and/or relevant law enforcement agencies to perform the background check.
- If the background check is satisfactory the staff member may begin their duties.
- VWS administration notifies the person hiring the prospective staff member if the result of the background check is not satisfactory.
- The executive director (and other VWS staff members the ED designates) will work with the background check vendor and/or other law enforcement agencies to discover information that may aid in making a decision whether to maintain or rescind the volunteer or employment offer.
- The VWS staff will notify the potential staff member that they have not satisfactorily completed the background check and will present a report containing:
- All the information they discovered that might contribute a decision to rescind an offer.
- A description of where and how the information was obtained.
- The potential staff member will have seven business days to do some or all of the following:
- Provide evidence of misidentification
- Dispute information in the report presented by VWS
- Confirm information in the report presented by VWS
- Add information to the report presented by VWS
- The Executive Director, with appropriate consultation with designated individuals, staff, or board member(s), will determine if the offer needs to be rescinded in cases where the results of the background check are not satisfactory and evidence presented by the prospective staff member does not sufficiently address their concerns.
- The Executive Director will contact the prospective staff member if the offer is rescinded due to a failed background check. Notification is followed up with a formal letter to that individual.
- VWS administration keeps the result of the background check in a confidential file.
10. ONGOING BACKGROUND CHECKS
It is the policy of VWS that background checks may be repeated on existing staff members. These background checks will not take place more frequently than every three (3) years unless a special exception is made by the executive director.
11. CURRENT STAFF MEMBERS AND DUTY TO REPORT CONVICTIONS/PLEAS
Staff members have an ongoing responsibility during their employment to make VWS aware of any felony or misdemeanor convictions or pleas which are acknowledgements of responsibility. Any convictions or pleas should be reported to the Executive Director. Said reports will be kept confidential unless the Executive Director designates another individual that needs to know in order to perform their duties.