Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblyman Jamel Holley to prevent convicted criminals from running for election to a board of education was signed into law on Monday.
The new law (A-4206) was inspired by a situation in which an Edison resident attempted to run for school board after previously serving six months in a federal prison for falsifying immigration documents in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from undocumented immigrants.
“Men and women who seek election to school boards are ultimately responsible for the education, safety, health and welfare of our children,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “Protecting our students and setting good examples are top priorities, which makes it crucial that we preserve the sanctity of our school boards.”
“School board members are the guardians of our children’s education and must lead by example,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “This new law will ensure that convicted criminals are not elected to these posts while also ensuring that taxpayers’ time and money are not wasted should they attempt to run.”
“This is about ensuring the integrity of our school systems and making sure those in charge lead by example and are people our children can look up to,” said Holley (D-Union). “Given the weight of their responsibilities, this is a reasonable requirement.”
The law already had disqualified a person from membership on a board of education or a charter school board of trustees if they had been convicted of certain crimes or offenses including, but not limited to: any crime of the first or second degree, endangering the welfare of a child, drug possession or distribution, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, arson, manslaughter, murder, making terroristic threats, criminal restraint, perjury and bias intimidation. However, the law required a person to undergo a criminal background check only after they already were elected.
Under the new law, as of July 1, 2018, a school board candidate will be required to file with his or her nominating petition a specific affirmation that he or she has not been convicted of any of the disqualifying crimes specified by law.
The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature before being signed into law by the governor.