PDE Search

Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)
FBI Federal Criminal History Records for Prospective Employees
December 1, 2008
(updated)

Act 114 of 2006, Section 111 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code outlines background check requirements for student teachers and the employees of public and private schools and their contractors.

The Act requires that

  • all student teachers (participating in classroom teaching, internships, clinical or field experience) and
  • prospective employees (including, but not limited to: administrators, teachers, substitutes, janitors, cafeteria workers and office employees)
  • of public and private schools, Intermediate Units and area vocational-technical schools, including independent contractors and their employees and bus drivers
  • who have direct contact with children

must provide to their employer a copy of their Federal Criminal History Record that cannot be more than one (1) year old. This applies to employees hired on or after April 1, 2007. Employees hired prior to April 1, 2007, were only required to provide the Federal Criminal History record if they have lived outside of Pennsylvania for at least two years immediately preceding their application for employment.

Implementation Timeline

PDE contracted with Cogent Systems to manage the fingerprinting process for the Commonwealth. This included establishing a website, staffing a help desk, and establishing fixed site locations for the taking of and transmitting of applicants’ fingerprints. These services became operational, March 30, 2007. During the first year of this requirement, over 170,000 individuals were fingerprinted and obtained federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) reports from the FBI. During the first twenty months of the operation of this program, the FBI mailed paper copies of the reports to PDE, the reports were then mailed to the applicants. Given the high volume of reports and the need to improve the process, PDE requested that Cogent Systems develop a process that could be managed entirely online to expedite the process. As of December 1, 2008, the new process is in place and is described in this document.

The Process

The fingerprint-based background check is a multiple-step process:

  1. The applicant must register prior to going to the fingerprint site. Walk in service without prior registration will not be provided at any fingerprinting location. Registration is completed online or over the phone. Registration is available online 24 hours/day, seven days per week atwww.pa.cogentid.com Telephonic registration is available at 1-888-439-2486 Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm EST. During the registration process, all demographic data for the applicant is collected (name, address, SSN, etc.) so there is no data entry required at the fingerprint collection site.
  2. The applicant will pay a fee of $36.00 for the fingerprint service and the CHRI. The new system provides the CHRI online to the employer. In order for the applicant to receive a paper copy of the report, the applicant will pay an additional fee of $2.00 for processing. If the applicant requests a paper copy, the total fee will be $38.00. The applicant must make the choice to receive a paper copy at the time of registration. The applicant will have no other access to a paper copy other than during the registration process.

    *Effective June 15, 2009, the fee for applicants to obtain a paper copy of their CHRI report from Cogent Systems will be $2.50. If the applicant requests a paper copy, the total fee will be $38.50. The new fee will apply to those who register with Cogent Systems, on and after June 15, 2009.

  3. Applicants may make their payment online at www.pa.cogentid.com using a credit card or debit card. Money orders or cashiers checks payable to Cogent Systems will be accepted on site for those applicants who do not have the means to pay electronically. No cash transactions or personal checks are allowed.

    Agency Billing
    . Agencies that request to pay applicants’ fees may arrange to be billed by Cogent Systems for the cost of these services. Billing may only occur after the requesting agency has completed Cogent Systems’ Agency Pay Agreement.To establish a billing account visit www.pa.cogentid.com and download an application. The billing account must be established prior to sending applicants to the fingerprint site.
  4. The applicant proceeds to the fingerprint site of choice. Location of fingerprint sites and days and hours of operation for each site are posted on Cogent Systems’ website at www.pa.cogentid.com. The location of fingerprint sites may change over time; applicants are encouraged to confirm the site location nearest to their location.
  5. At the fingerprint site the Applicant Livescan Operators (ALO) manage the fingerprint collection process.
  6. The fingerprint transaction begins when the ALO reviews the applicant’s qualified State or Federal photo ID before processing the applicant’s transaction. A list of approved ID types may be found on Cogent Systems’ website at www.pa.cogentid.com. Applicants will not be processed if they cannot produce an acceptable photo ID.
  7. After the identity of the applicant has been established, all ten fingers are scanned to complete the process. The entire fingerprint capture process should take no more than three to five minutes.
  8. For individuals fingerprinted on and after December 1, 2008 – The process was redesigned with approval from the Pennsylvania State Policeand the FBI. The time for processing is anticipated to take no longer than two days.
    • Applicants’ scanned fingerprints will be electronically transmitted to the FBI by Cogent Systems.
    • The FBI will electronically transmit the CHRI to Cogent Systems, where the CHRI will be stored in a secure server.
    • The CHRI will be available online for the School Administrator to review. Administrators receive login and password information from Cogent Systems.
    • The CHRI that is available for review online constitutes the official record. Applicants give permission for the School Administrator to review the report during the registration process.
    • The School Administrator will review the CHRI to make a determination as to the fitness of the applicant to work in the position in which they will have contact with children.
    • If the applicant is hired for the position, the School Administrator will print a copy of the CHRI for the school’s files.
    • Applicants may request a paper copy of the CHRI when they register to be fingerprinted. This will be the applicants’ only opportunity to request a copy.
    • The paper copy will be mailed to these applicants by Cogent Systems. The “unofficial” paper copy is a copy of the CHRI that the School Administrator will review online.
    • The applicant may share the paper copy of the CHRI with prospective employers. However, the School Administrator is required to review the official CHRI online and print a copy of the CHRI if the applicant is hired by the public school or private school or their contractor, or if the applicant is approved for student teaching.
  9. For individuals fingerprinted prior to December 1, 2008 – Applicants will receive the official report on watermarked paper from PDE.
    • PDE will receive the CHRI from the FBI via Cogent Systems.
    • PDE’s School Services Unit will copy the CHRI and mail it to the applicant. The CHRI will be printed on standard 8.5” X 11” paper with the Commonwealth Seal imbedded on the paper.
    • The applicant will provide the CHRI to their prospective employer.
    • The School Administrator will review the CHRI to make a determination as to the fitness of the applicant to work in the position in which they will have contact with children. If the applicant is hired for the position, the School Administrator prints a copy of the CHRI for the school’s files.
    • The CHRI must be less than 12 months old at the time of employment to be considered valid. The date of the CHRI is considered to be the date on which the individual was fingerprinted.
    • This document constitutes an official Record. If an applicant, fingerprinted prior to December 1, 2008, presents their CHRI and the Commonwealth Seal is not embedded on the paper, it should be considered as invalid and not an official record.
    • Applicants who were fingerprinted prior to December 1 2008, who have not yet received their CHRI from PDE, should contact PDE at (717) 783-3750 or email PDE at dwolfgang@pa.gov.

Provisional Employment

The Act allows Administrators to employ applicants on a provisional basis for a single period not to exceed ninety (90) days, except during a lawful strike proceeding under the provisions of the act of July 23, 1970, known as the “Public Employee Relations Act”, provided all of the following conditions are met:

  • The applicant has applied for the information required under subsection (b) and, where applicable, under subsection (c) or (c.1), and the applicant provides a copy of the appropriate completed request forms to the Administrator.
  • The Administrator has no knowledge of information pertaining to the applicant which would disqualify them from employment pursuant to subsection (e).
  • The applicant swears or affirms in writing that they are not disqualified from employment pursuant to subsection (e).
  • If the information obtained pursuant to subsection (b), (c), or (c1) reveals that the applicant is disqualified from employment pursuant to subsection (e), the applicant shall be suspended and subject to termination proceedings as provided for by law.
  • The Administrator requires that the applicant not be permitted to work alone with children and that the applicant work in the vicinity of a permanent employee.

Fingerprint Corrections and Resubmissions

In circumstances where a classifiable fingerprint record was not or cannot be obtained and immediately upon indication, Cogent Systems will take corrective action to re-submit, or re-print the applicant at no cost to the applicant. This corrective action will be completed at the earliest possible time, and when applicable, that is convenient for the applicant. Cogent Systems will contact the applicant directly should this occur. NOTE: Reprinting can be applied to each applicant one time only. If fingerprinting must take place a third time the applicant must pay the full fee.

Group Fingerprinting Support

If you have a requirement to fingerprint a large group of applicants (300 college education majors, a contractor’s entire staff of 120 employees, 50 bus drivers, etc.) Cogent Systems and the fixed site providers will try to accommodate that request. Some fingerprint service sites have the ability to bring portable equipment to your site. If you are in need of Group Fingerprinting Support, visit www.pa.cogentid.com. Service sites in your area that have mobile equipment will be listed.

NOTE: This mobile service requires the visited site to provide broadband internet access and access through any firewall. The sites that offer mobile services can provide you instructions, in advance of their visit, that would allow fingerprinting to occur at your site. You must however, plan ahead. Requirements for hosting a mobile Livescan operation can be found at www.pa.cogentid.com

We encourage you to utilize this service but you must plan ahead. Please do not overwhelm the service by sending large groups of applicants to fixed site locations. If you must send a large group of applicants to a fixed site, please plan for their arrival to occur over days and weeks, not over hours.

Confidentiality (Security) of Applicant Information

On-site access to the Livescan equipment, and the data traveling from the equipment, is comprehensively secured and regulated by both Cogent Systems and the regulations governing the use of that data.

Security - The computer system is housed within a secured network that is protected by firewall devices configured explicitly to allow only permissible protocols and traffic. Cogent Systems ensures that all devices procured under this process continue to adhere to the Commonwealth’s Security requirements. The systems are configured to provide a point of defense with controlled access from both inside and outside the network. The Livescan systems are configured to support logging and audit capability. Furthermore, the Livescan solution will support 128 bit encryption.

Inquiries and Questions

Information regarding process, policy, and fingerprinting locations may be found at www.pa.cogentid.com

Fingerprint Services Sites should contact Blake Godard at bgodard@cogentsystems.com

Fingerprint applicants should contact Denise Wolfgang at (717) 783-3750 or dwolfgang@pa.gov School entities who have questions regarding access to the online system may contact RA-PDE-SchoolService@pa.gov, or 717-783-3750.


For additional information, please contact:

Denise Wolfgang | Administrative Assistant
Pennsylvania Department of Education - School Services Office
333 Market Street | Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Phone: 717.783.3750
dwolfgang@pa.gov | www.education.state.pa.us