Q&A: What Crimes Disqualify Someone from Working with Kids?

Find out what criteria your state uses.

Our church youth group is planning a short-term missions trip later this summer. We are conducting background checks, including criminal records checks, for the adults who will be going on the trip. We discovered that one of the adult workers has a 2002 conviction for resisting arrest, which is a Class A misdemeanor. Can we use him?
Your church has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care in the selection of persons who will be supervising or working with minors. One way to meet this standard is to align your selection practices to those used by other major youth-serving charities, including the public schools in your state. I have checked your state statutes, and there is a statute that lists those crimes that will disqualify a person from teaching in public schools. Those crimes include sexual assault of a child; physical abuse of a child; causing mental harm to a child; sexual exploitation of a child; incest; use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime; soliciting a child for prostitution; sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older; exposure; possession of child pornography; child sex offender working with children; registered sex offender photographing children; child neglect; abduction; contributing to truancy; strip searches by school employees; hazing; child unattended in a child care vehicle; leaving loaded firearm accessible to a minor; receiving stolen property from a child; tattooing a child; battery; battery or threat to a witness; battery or threat to a judge; battery to an unborn child; mayhem; sexual exploitation by a therapist; sexual assault; reckless injury; injury by negligent handling of a firearm; injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle; abuse of persons at risk; false imprisonment; kidnapping; and stalking.
Resisting arrest is not on this list of crimes that disqualify persons from obtaining a certificate as a public school teacher. This indicates that the state does not consider persons who commit this crime to be unfit to teach minors in public schools, and this would be a defense your church could make if you choose to use this particular worker and he harms a child in the course of the missions trip. After all, how can your church be guilty of negligent selection in using a person who the state would consider fit to teach children in the public schools?
Of course, a court may reject this analogy, but it would be further strengthened if your church engages in additional precautions in the selection process, including references.
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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