2004 Regular Session

To: Public Health and Welfare

By: Senator(s) Burton

Senate Bill 2079



     SECTION 1.  (1)  For purposes of this section, health care professional/vocational technical student shall be defined as a student enrolled in an academic program in medicine, nursing, dentistry, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social services, nutrition services, speech therapy, or other allied health professional whose purpose is to prepare professionals to render patient care services.

     (2)  The dean or director of the health care professional/vocational technical academic program shall ensure that criminal records background checks and fingerprinting are obtained on their students prior to their beginning any clinical rotation in a licensed health care entity and that such criminal record information and registry checks are on file at the academic institution.  In order to determine the student's suitability for the clinical rotation, the student shall be fingerprinted.  If no disqualifying record is identified at the state level, the fingerprints shall be forwarded by the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health, or any other legally authorized entity to the FBI for a national criminal history record check.  The fee for such fingerprinting and criminal history record check shall be paid by the applicant, not to exceed one hundred ($100.00); however, the academic institution in which the student is enrolled, in its discretion, may elect to pay the fee for the fingerprinting and criminal record check on behalf of any applicant.  Under no circumstances shall the academic institution representative or any individual other than the subject of the criminal history record checks disseminate information received through any such checks except insofar as required to fulfill the purposes of this section.

     (3)  If such fingerprinting or criminal record checks disclose a felony conviction, guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere to a felony possession or sale of drugs, murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, sexual battery, sex offense listed in Section 45-31-3(I), child abuse, arson, grand larceny, burglary, gratification of lust or aggravated assault which has not been reversed on appeal or for which a pardon has not been granted, the student shall not be eligible to be admitted to such health professional academic program of study.  Any preadmission agreement executed by the health professional academic program shall be voidable if the student receives a disqualifying criminal record check.  However, the academic health program administration may, in its discretion, allow any applicant aggrieved by the admissions decision under this section to appear before an appeals committee or before a hearing officer designated for such purpose, to show mitigating circumstances which may exist and allow the student to be admitted to or continue in the program of study.  The health profession academic program may grant waivers for such mitigating circumstances, which shall include, but not be limited to:  (a) age at which the crime was committed; (b) circumstances surrounding the crime; (c) length of time since the conviction and criminal history since the conviction; (d) work history; (e) current employment and character references; (f) other evidence demonstrating the ability of the student to perform the clinical responsibilities competently and that the student does not pose a threat to the health or safety of patients in the licensed entities in which they will be conducting clinical experiences.  The health professional academic program shall provide assurance to the licensed entity in which the clinical rotation is planned that the results of a health professional student's criminal history record check would not prohibit their being able to conduct their clinical activities in the facility, institution, or organization.  Such criminal history record check shall be valid for the course of academic study provided that annual disclosure statements are provided to the health professional academic program regarding any criminal activity that may have occurred during the student's tenure with the health professional academic program.  The criminal history record check may be repeated at the discretion of the health professional academic program based on information obtained during the annual disclosure statements.  In extenuating circumstances, should a criminal history record check be initiated and the results not be available at the time the clinical rotation begins, the academic institution in which the student is enrolled, at its discretion, may require a signed affidavit from the student assuring compliance with this act.  Said affidavit will be considered null and void within sixty (60) days of its signature.

     (4)  Criminal history record checks that are done as part of the requirements for participation in the health professional/ vocational technical academic program may not be used for any other purpose than those activities associated with their program of study.  Students who may be employed as health professionals outside of their program of study may be required to obtain additional criminal history record checks as part of their employment agreement.

     (5)  No health professional/vocational technical academic program or academic health program employee shall be held liable in any admissions discrimination suit in which an allegation of discrimination is made regarding an admissions decision authorized under this section.

     SECTION 2.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2004.