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College Applications Include Criminal History and Sex Offender Questions

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September 10, 2013 Return to News & Events

College Applications Include Criminal History and Sex Offender Questions

A recent article in the Seattle Times (Jul. 30, 2013) outlines recent changes to the new student application process at the University of Washington.

This fall, students applying for undergraduate admission to the University of Washington will have to divulge whether they have a violent criminal history or are registered as sex offenders.

The basis of this change is related to the discovery that two Level Three sex offenders were enrolled during 2012.
While many schools already utilize questions of criminal past or sex offender registry status, the question UW asks is fairly specific:

 “Have you ever been convicted of a violent felony offense, are such charges pending against you at this time, or have you been required to register as a sex offender by any legal authority in the U.S. or any other country?”

A positive answer does not necessarily preclude an applicant from attendance to the University; rather their application is forwarded to a special committee for further review.

“The whole point of our holistic evaluation of applications is that every situation is different. For those who come to us with this particular experience, we want to take a close look at it and see where this person is in his or her life.”

Across the United States the question of what can and cannot be asked on an employment application is being questioned.  Recent actions by the EEOC combined with "Ban-the-Box" legislation regulating the use of criminal history searches have created a great deal of confusion in regards to hiring.

And the use of criminal history searches is not isolated to employment and hiring.  During the vetting process of new tenants criminal history information is often utilized in the determination of whether or not to rent to an individual.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of states:  "The use of public records and, specifically, criminal histories, is under question.  How can they be used?  Where can they be used?  Who can use them?  It is a complicated question."

New regulations governing the use of criminal histories vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. 

Almeida adds:  "Whether it is a University in Washington using very specific questions as a method of further protecting their population, or a small business hiring new employees, the laws governing the use of criminal histories can vary significantly."

Ultimately Almeida recommends that businesses and organizations that utilize criminal histories as part of a vetting process, be it for employees, volunteers, or new students, conduct their background screening through a qualified third-party background screening company.

"Compliance is key.  And with rapidly changing laws governing the use of background screening records it is clear that organizations and companies should work with a third-party screener, a company that stays current with all local, state, and federal law."  Almeida said. is a third-party background screening company that assists companies large and small with all of their background screening requirements.  With vast knowledge of local, state and federal laws and regulations, can assist in creating a compliant pre-employment background screening policy.

This has been a News Publication - All rights reserved is “An Information Enterprises Solution”

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