The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is required by law to conduct a background check on all Wisconsin educator license applicants.
The primary purpose of a background check is to determine if the applicant has engaged in any behavior that endangers the health, welfare, safety or education of pupils.
When applying for a license, all applicants must:
- Complete a Conduct and Competency questionnaire in ELO, including all required documentation and information. Preview the Conduct and Competency questionnaire.
- Prepare and attach all documentation IF there is misconduct that needs to be reported. Prepare and attach written explanation of what happened and, when applicable, gather and SCAN copies of any related criminal complaint, criminal judgment, police reports, disciplinary letters/findings, correspondence, etc. (Note: information printed from the CCAP web site is NOT sufficient)
- Use the Fingerprint Decision Tree to determine if fingerprints are required for your application.
- Upload all supporting documents in the online application system.
Failure to submit all necessary information in support of an application will result in significant delay in processing, and may result in denial of an application.
Background Check Process
The background check is individually conducted by the DPI at the time the application is submitted. Each decision is based on the unique facts associated with each application.
Some applications require additional time to complete the background check. This delay is not an indication of a problem. If additional clarification, information, or documentation are necessary, the DPI will contact the applicant in writing.
The background check process includes a review of prior criminal behavior as well as any behavior that may be considered "immoral conduct" or "incompetency", as defined in Wis. Admin Code PI 34.097, regardless of whether it was illegal. If the background check reveals potential areas of concern, the licensing team reviews the relevant information to determine whether the issue(s) should result in denial of a license.
In addition to the information provided on the Conduct and Competency questions, the DPI uses multiple sources of information to conduct a background check outlined below.
Background Check Information Sources
Sources of information frequently used by the DPI for conducting background checks include:
- Crime Information Bureau (CIB) - Within the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the CIB functions as a central repository for criminal arrest and conviction records within Wisconsin. Only incidents that were submitted to the CIB accompanied by fingerprints are contained in the database.
- Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) - This website, also called the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA), provides access to certain public records of the circuit courts of Wisconsin. The information displayed is an exact copy of the case information entered into the CCAP case management system by court staff in the counties where the case files are located. The court record summaries are all public records under Wisconsin open records law. Not all counties provide their court information to CCAP.
- FBI Fingerprint Check – Conducted through Wisconsin Department of Justice, FBI Fingerprint Check is used to check the criminal history of certain applicants who have lived, worked or attended school outside of Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry - A database that contains information about certain convicted sex offenders in Wisconsin.
- Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry - A national database that contains information about certain convicted sex offenders from all fifty states.
- Wisconsin Caregiver Misconduct Registry – A database that contains information about certified Wisconsin caregivers who have been found to have engaged in misconduct.
Note: An applicant may have a juvenile record, but if that applicant does not reveal this information to the DPI at the time of application, it is likely that information will remain confidential. Juvenile records are not disclosed by the FBI, CIB or CCAP to the DPI. However, some juvenile sex offense adjudications are subject to sex offender registration and therefore are public, as are convictions resulting from a waiver into adult court.
Terms and Definitions – Background Check
- Applicant: Any person who applies for a license, permit or other certificate from the department.
- Arrest: A person has been taken into custody and detained by law enforcement.
- Background Review: A status of Background Review occurs when information is revealed during the background check process that may constitute immoral conduct or incompetency and which requires further investigation and review.
- CCAP: Consolidated Court Automation Program. This website, also called the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA), provides access to certain public records of the circuit courts of Wisconsin. The information displayed is an exact copy of the case information entered into the CCAP case management system by court staff in the counties where the case files are located. The court record summaries are all public records under the Wisconsin open records laws. However, not all Wisconsin counties provide information to CCAP.
- Charge: A criminal charge is an official accusation or allegation that a person engaged in a certain criminal act.
- CIB: "Crime Information Bureau." Within the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the CIB functions as a central repository for criminal arrest and conviction records within Wisconsin. Only incidents that were submitted to the CIB accompanied by fingerprints are contained in the database.
- Conviction: A criminal conviction is a finding of fact by a court that a person committed a criminal act.
- Criminal Complaint and Information: Official court documents outlining and explaining the crimes of which a defendant has been accused.
- Denied: A status which occurs when an application for licensure is denied - Wis. Admin Code PI 34.103.
- Deferred Prosecution: An agreement entered into by a defendant, the prosecutor and the judge. The agreement usually lists conditions that a defendant must fulfill within a set amount of time. If the defendant completes the agreement successfully, the judge agrees to dismiss charges against the defendant, or to reduce them to a non-criminal forfeiture.
- Dismissed: Charges are dropped, and the case is not pursued.
- Disposition: The outcome of a case.
- DOJ: (Wisconsin) Department of Justice.
- Expunged: The contents of the court record are purged. This often happens as part of an agreement when a person is sentenced - if the person completes certain conditions, the court agrees to “expunge” the records of the case. Note: Only the court records are expunged. Law enforcement records remain available.
- Felony: A felony is a crime for which the penalty is more than one year in jail.
- Immoral Conduct: Conduct that is contrary to commonly accepted moral or ethical standards and which endangers the health, welfare, safety or education of any pupil Wis. Stat. 115.31(1)(c). Immoral Conduct also includes all of the following:
- The intentional use of an educational agency's equipment to download, view, solicit, seek, display, or distribute pornographic material.
- Assisting a school employee, contractor, or agent to obtain a new job in a school or with a local educational agency, as defined in 20 USC 7801 (30), if the individual knows or has a reasonable suspicion to believe that the school employee, contractor, or agent committed a sex offense, as defined in s. 301.45 (1d) (b), and the victim was a minor or a pupil.
- Incompetence: A pattern of inadequate performance of duties or the lack of ability, legal qualifications or fitness to discharge required duties, and which endangers the health, welfare, safety or education of any pupil – Wis. Admin Code PI 34.097.
- Licensee: A person holding a license or having the right to renew a license.
- Misdemeanor: A misdemeanor is a crime for which the maximum penalty is not more than one year in jail.
- No Probable Cause (NPC): A misconduct investigation has taken place and was closed with the finding that, based on the available information, there is no probable cause to pursue revocation of the person’s Wisconsin educator license(s).
- Ordinance Violation/Forfeiture/Non-criminal: non-criminal violation of the law, usually a county or city ordinance. The disposition of these charges typically involves a fine or forfeiture.
- Reinstatement: Restoring the rights, privileges, and authority previously revoked.
- Sentence: A consequence imposed by a judge after a person has been found guilty of committing a crime.
- State Superintendent: The Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected official.
Standards and Procedures for Denial of License
The decision to issue or deny a license is based on the following standards as stated in Wis. Admin Code PI 34.103:
- The state superintendent shall deny, refuse to renew or refuse to revalidate a license based on liability in delinquent taxes as certified by Department of Revenue – Wis. Stat. 118.19 (1m)(a) and (b)
- The state superintendent shall deny, refuse to renew or refuse to revalidate a license based on delinquency in making court-ordered payments of child or family support as certified by department of children and families – Wis. Stat. 118.19 (1r)(a) and (b)
- The state superintendent shall deny a license based on certain convictions – Wis. Stat 118.19 (4)
- The state superintendent shall deny a license to a person who has not met the requirements of licensure as provided in Wis. Admin Code PI 34.097-34.107 and Wis. Stat. 118.19.
- The state superintendent may deny, refuse to renew or refuse to revalidate a license to a person who has engaged in immoral conduct or incompetence.
- The state superintendent may deny licensure to a person whose license has been revoked by another state.
- The state superintendent may deny or refuse to renew a license to a person who has provided a false, inaccurate, or incomplete application.
If the DPI denies a license, the applicant will be notified, in writing, of the decision. The applicant has a right to request an administrative hearing within 30 days of the date of denial by submitting in writing to the State Superintendent:
- Applicant’s name and address
- The type of license for which the applicant has applied.
- The reason the applicant is requesting a license.
- The facts which the applicant intends to prove at the hearing to support the request for the license.
- A description of the mistake the applicant believes was made if the applicant claims that the denial of a license is based on a mistake in fact or law.
At the hearing, the applicant will have the burden of proving why the department’s denial of licensure was improper, inaccurate, or otherwise wrong. The hearing will be conducted as a Class 1 Public Hearing, under Wis. Stat. 227.01 (3).