Background Checks and Clearances Required for Graduate and Undergraduate Education Students
Background Checks Requirements and COVID-19
Questions have arisen regarding requirements of background checks and clearances and accessibility with the disruptions of COVID-19. There are no changes of requirements due to COVID-19. All students must meet the background checks and clearances required of their Education program. Read the following information to determine who needs background checks and any programs exempted from background checks and clearances.
Background Checks Policy
Please refer to the University’s FERPA Compliance Policy.
The School of Education Background Checks policy requires: students enrolled in Education courses that require fieldwork to submit updated background checks/clearances documents (listed below) annually to the School of Education (by July 1st), via its online platform, Castle Branch. Please review the list of exempt courses prior to purchasing a background checks package.
- Pennsylvania State Police Criminal History Record (Act 34),
- Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse History Clearance (Act 151),
- Federal Criminal History Background Check (FBI/fingerprint check) (Act 114), (IdentoGO code: 1KG6RT)
- P.P.D. (TB) Test (School Health regulations, 28 PA Code, Section 23.44) or QuantiFeron-TB Gold Plus [Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs)
- Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting (Act 126)* (renewal required every 5 years)
- Request to Release information (FERPA)
- School of Education Fieldwork Placement Informed Consent Form
All students are additionally required to report any infractions incurred between renewals. Any student enrolled in Education courses or an Education program who commits a reportable offense listed in Section 111 (e) of PA Act 24, is required to complete and return an Arrest/Conviction PDE form-6004 to the School of Education, Office of Field Experiences and Outreach (Taylor Hall, room 203) within 72 hours of any arrest or conviction.
Who needs Background Checks?
All Graduate and Undergraduate Education Students and other Arcadia students who take School of Education courses that include fieldwork are required to obtain and submit updated clearances in advance of all fieldwork. This policy extends to and includes Graduate Students who intend to complete fieldwork / field projects with the students or youth in the classrooms or schools or community centers or agencies, etc. in which they are currently employed full-time.
Background check documents must be valid for the entire academic year (May, June, July or August through the following April (May 1st)) in order to be approved. No matter when students initially obtain their clearances, students are directed to update their clearances immediately following the spring semester (or each summer) so that they’re valid to begin coursework at the start of the summer sessions (and the subsequent fall and spring semesters) and to register in the Fall for Spring courses that require fieldwork and in the Spring for Summer and Fall courses that require fieldwork.
A list of courses/programs that are exempt from background checks/clearance requirements are:
Exempt Undergraduate courses:
- ED110, ED203, ED249, ED262, ED263, ED299, ED360, and ED463
Exempt Graduate courses/programs:
- Foundations (ED501, ED503, ED504, ED504B, ED505B, ED506, ED507, ED509, ED510, ED510B)
- Culminating Activity: ED599
- ABA program courses
- Educational Leadership programs courses at both the Ed.D and Master’s level ( students who are not currently employed with a school organization are not exempt from background check requirements).
- Autism courses (applies to those enrolled only in Autism Arcadia graduate certificate; students in the Autism Endorsement program are not exempt from background check requirements)
- Infant Toddler Mental Health program and program courses (includes foundations and culminating activity as part of the degree program)
- PA Director credential program and program courses (includes foundations and culminating activity as part of the degree program)
Background Checks Approval Process
Once students have successfully submitted their updated documents to Castle Branch, no further action is necessary. The approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the time of year and the volume of submissions to Castle Branch.*
*Processing a clearance that reports an incident takes longer than the processing of clearances without an incident, as those with one or more incidents listed must be reviewed for approval. Students who have incidents on their clearances should contact the Director of Office of Field Experiences and Outreach immediately. The office is located in Taylor Hall, room 203.
Consequences for Not Having Updated Clearances
Students not having all required clearances loaded in Castle Branch are prohibited from engaging in fieldwork until their clearances are approved.
- Students’ grades can be affected by their inability to complete course-required fieldwork until clearances are approved.
- Students may not be allowed to continue in the course because fieldwork cannot be completed due to clearances not being approved at the start of the semester.
- May prevent a student from beginning fieldwork required for a course.
- May prevent a student from registering for courses the following semester that require fieldwork.
- Students who engage in fieldwork without approved clearances will not receive credit for that fieldwork in the course, possibly fail the course, and will be subject to disciplinary action by the School of Education for lack of professionalism.
When Should You Initially Request or Update Your Clearances?
All Undergraduate Education majors and minor Students are required to obtain updated clearances and upload them to Castle Branch in advance of their first course that includes fieldwork and then annually (each summer).
All Education degree Graduate Students are required to obtain and submit their updated clearances upon admission to their program(s) and then annually (each summer).
Undergraduate Students from other Arcadia University schools/colleges who intend to register for a School of Education course requiring clearances during the upcoming academic year – whether fall or spring – should begin the process for obtaining each of the required clearances in May (not before) of the academic year prior so that all clearances are ready to be uploaded to Castle Branch by the July 1st deadline established by the School of Education.
Transfer Students transferring into Arcadia University for a spring semester should make all attempts to obtain their clearances before attending their Transfer Student Advising Session. Transfer Students transferring into Arcadia University for a fall semester should make every effort to adhere to the policy as stated and secure clearances for a July 1 effective date. Transfer students will be required to obtain clearances before starting fieldwork for spring courses and then also be required to update again that summer in order to be aligned with the annual clearance update cycle established by the School of Education.
Graduate Students should begin the process for obtaining each of the clearances as soon as they:
- Register for a course that requires fieldwork. Check course description in Self Service to determine if clearances are needed for a specific course (also see list of exempt courses).
- Due to the variety of research requirements and opportunities that may involve working directly with schools or students, it is recommended that Graduate Students complete clearances as soon as they begin their program in the School of Education and keep them current through graduation.
How to Submit Your Background Checks (Clearances)
Please read thoroughly the policies and procedures pertaining to obtaining and submitting your background checks. Students must purchase and maintain through yearly renewals a CastleBranch account throughout their certification program for the purpose of obtaining and submitting their needed background checks. The cost for a CastleBranch initial package (2020-21) is $52.50 (renewal $33.00). Additional fees apply for the IdentoGO FBI fingerprint and the PA Child Abuse. The cost of a TB test varies by site. The Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Checks for Employment is included in the CastleBranch package. Graduate students completing their field requirements in their place of employment obtain an alternative CastleBranch package which can be found on Arcadia’s CastleBranch portal.
A student with an offense/incident listed on his/her background check(s) must also immediately notify the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach for review.
Incidents on Clearances
If one or more incident is reported on an updated clearance, then the process for approval for fieldwork is as follows:
- The student uploads all updated clearances to Castle Branch for review.
- The student notifies the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach by email or phone.
- The Office of Field Experiences and Outreach designee contacts the student to request he/she come to campus for an in-person meeting so that the they can discuss the clearance review process and any additional information needed and/or any other appropriate actions.
- The Office of Field Experiences and Outreach designee shares a copy of the clearance with the Legal Counsel of Arcadia University. Legal Counsel determines through its own review whether the student can complete fieldwork based on consultation with the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach, the information reported on the clearance and possibly any additional information requested from the student regarding the incident in question.
- The Office of Field Experiences and Outreach designee with follow-up with the student, whether by phone, email, or with a request for an in-person meeting, to share the outcome of the review process. Students will then have to schedule an appointment with their Academic Advisor to make any revisions to his/her course schedule or program enrollment in response to the information the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach designee shares.
Reporting Incidents Incurred Between Annual Summer Clearance Updates
Education students and others who take courses in the School of Education that require fieldwork are expected to inform the School of Education about any incidents they incur after they have submitted updated clearances to the School for the given academic year.
- In order to report an incident incurred between annual clearance updates, a student should immediately contact the School of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Attention Director Office of Field Experiences and Outreach, or 215-572-2938.
- A student is required to complete and return an Arrest/Conviction PDE form-6004 to the School of Education within 72 hours of any arrest or conviction.
- Additionally, a student who incurs an incident should not begin or continue to engage in any fieldwork while his/her incident is being reviewed by the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach.
A student who fails to immediately report an incident and/or who continues to engage in fieldwork before an incident has been reviewed by the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Arcadia University’s Student Code of Conduct and/or PA Department of Education Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators.
Questions and Assistance
- For general questions about clearances, please contact the School of Education at email@example.com
- For questions about clearances related to a course, please contact your course instructor.
- For other questions related to field experiences in the School of Education, please contact the Office of Field Experiences and Outreach by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.