University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Federal and State Criminal Clearances

Federal and State Background Checks and Clearances

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), anyone working with or observing children in public and private schools, IUs, and vocational-technical schools are required to provide proof of the following clearances:

  • Federal Criminal History Record
  • Pennsylvania State Criminal Record Check
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance

If these clearances are not turned in by the end of the add/drop period in the term of registration, the student must drop any class requiring school visits. Furthermore, if there is a criminal infraction on any of these clearances, school placement for the school is unlikely, which will require the student to withdraw from the class. Decisions about permitting students to observe or do other tasks in a school are made by the school district and the principal. The University cannot guarantee that a person with entries in their criminal record will be permitted to do assignments in a school. While State law bars certain offenders from schools, districts often impose more extreme requirements. Students who have entries in their records should consult the Coordinator of Clinical Practice on whether a placement will be likely.

Note that this regulation applies to University Supervisors working with pre-service teachers and to researchers who are working in classrooms with teachers and students.

Each pre-service teacher, supervisor, or researcher working in a school must obtain:

Plan to obtain your clearances at least 2 months prior to needing them for clinical or work experiences. You should always retain the original clearances and provide copies to the university and any school in which you are working.

Obtaining the Federal Criminal History Record

Fee: $38.00

  • The applicant should register online with Cogent Systems ( or by calling 1-800-439-2486 prior to going to the fingerprinting center. Payment is made online at the time of registration by credit or debit card, or at the fingerprinting site by money order or cashier's check made payable to Cogent Systems. No cash or personal checks are accepted. Please record your registration number - it is a series of letters and numbers - you will need to provide this number to any school district, institution, or agency needing the results of your federal background check.
  • The applicant then reports to one of the approved fingerprint centers. Click on either of the links below for hours and directions to the centers nearest to you.
  • The fingerprints are scanned; the entire fingerprint capture process takes approximately 10 minutes. If you would like an unofficial copy of the results of your federal background check, you must order it at this time for a $2.00 fee - you will not be able to obtain it at a later date.
  • The prints are then electronically transmitted to the PA State Police, who then submits the fingerprints and demographic information to the FBI as required by federal statute.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education will receive the Federal Criminal History Report from the FBI
  • After you have been fingerprinted, you should provide any school district, institution, or agency which needs access to the results of your federal clearance with your registration number. They will access a secure database at PDE to view your results using their institution's username and password. They may not provide you with copies of this information. They should be able to access your clearance information within a week of fingerprint processing.
  • If you have a question or an issue with your federal clearance, call 717.783.3750 or email the Pennsylvania Department of Education at Neither Cogent Systems, nor the School of Education can provide the status or results of your report to you.

Further details regarding fingerprinting can be found on the Cogent Systems web site or the Pennsylvania Department of Education web site

NOTE: The Regulation allows an applicant to enter into a school for a single period not to exceed 90 days, except during a lawful strike, provided that all the following conditions are met:

  • The applicant has applied for the background checks and can provide appropriate documentation
  • The administrator has no knowledge about the applicant that would disqualify the applicant from employment
  • The applicant affirms in writing that they are not disqualified from employment
  • If the information revealed in the background check reveals the applicant is disqualified, the applicant will be subjected to termination
  • The administrator requires that the applicant not be permitted to work alone with children and does work in the vicinity of a permanent employee.

Obtaining the Pennsylvania State Criminal Record Check

Fee: $10.00


  • This clearance may be obtained on-line if the applicant has a credit or debit card at
  • If the applicant must use a money order, send it with the paper form (available online or in hard-copy from the Department of Instruction and Learning in 5300 Posvar Hall) to the PA State Police. When filling out this form, the check the "School District" option under the "Reason for Request"
  • The on-line response is virtually instantaneous ­ the applicant prints the report from their computer. The mailed request can take up to 4 to 5 weeks for processing and will be mailed directly to the applicant.


  • Out of State Residents must first obtain the Federal/FBI clearance (see above) and then submit the mailed request for the PA State Criminal Record Check with a copy of the FBI clearance results.

Obtaining the Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance

Fee: $10.00

  • The application is available online or from the Department of Instruction and Learning in 5300 Posvar Hall. The applicant should complete Section 1 of the form only. The supplied address must be the applicant's current home address and all information must be completed in full and to the best of the applicant's knowledge.
  • The application must be signed.
  • A $10.00 money order must accompany the request (no personal checks)
  • When filling out the form, the check the "School" option under "Purpose of Clearance".
  • The request can take up to 4 to 5 weeks for processing and will be mailed directly to the applicant. You may call the Office of Children Youth and Families at 717.783.6211 or 717.783.6211 if problems arise.