DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state Senate has passed a bill prohibiting Delaware colleges and universities from asking prospective students about their criminal history during the application or admissions process, with some exceptions. .
The bill passed the Democratic-led House in a 15-5 vote on Thursday and is now going to the House. Sen. Ernie Lopez, a University of Delaware employee who is not seeking reelection, was the only Republican to vote for the measure.
Proponents of the bill say it will expand educational and career opportunities for convicted felons.
“Every Delawarean deserves a chance to learn from their worst mistakes and seek a better life for themselves and their families,” said Senator Marie Pinkney, the bill’s lead sponsor.
Opponents fear the legislation poses a public safety risk to college and university students.
Under the bill, higher education institutions, whether public or private, would generally be prohibited from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application form, or at any time before to decide whether or not to accept the person’s admission.
On an application form, a school could only ask about convictions for harassment, sexual assault or other sexual offenses. A school, for example, could ask if an applicant has been convicted of sexual harassment, an unqualified offense that usually results in a fine, but it could not ask if the applicant has been convicted of a non-sexual violent crime such than an armed robbery. , assault, arson or murder.
If the school chooses to deny admission based on a conviction for sexual harassment or offending, the applicant may appeal through the school’s disciplinary process.
Once a person is accepted for admission, a school may request a criminal record, but only for the purpose of offering advice or making decisions regarding their participation in campus life. In doing so, the school would be required to consider the nature of the criminal conduct and whether it has a direct connection to campus life. The school should also consider the person’s age at the time of the criminal behavior, how long ago it happened, and any evidence of “rehabilitation or good behavior.”
A school could not use criminal conviction history as the sole reason for denying admission to or continuation of an academic program designed to prepare a student for a career that requires a professional license or teaching certificate. The school would, however, be required to offer advice related to the licensing or certification requirement “to help a student make an informed decision about pursuing such a program.”