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Maryland Approves Law Banning Colleges from Asking About Criminal Record

  • Amanda Scott

Lawmakers in Maryland have approved legislation that would bar the state’s public and private colleges and universities from asking prospective students whether they have a criminal record.

The legislation, formally called the Maryland Fair Access to Education Act of 2017, is meant to remove barriers for students with records.

Maryland Delegate Maggie McIntosh, who sponsored the bill, said that asking about convictions “serves as a deterrent for many students who assume that a prior record will disqualify them for admission.”

John Hopkins University officials which supported "the sentiment" of the bill expressed concern that the it “would bar an institution from rescinding any acceptance on the basis of new information about a criminal record," according to the student run News-Letter newspaper.

However, university officials say those issues have since been resolved and that the higher education community supports the bill as passed.

The bill does not bar schools from performing a background check and considering that information “to protect student safety”.

It also doesn't prevent colleges from using third-party companies that ask about prior convictions such as the common application, which can be used to apply to some 700 universities across the country.

The legislation comes as part of the larger “Ban The Box” movement, which seeks to prevent employers from asking job applicants about prior convictions.

That measure, which passed in Baltimore in 2014, prevents Baltimore employers from asking about a job candidate's criminal history until a conditional offer has been made.

The Maryland Fair Access to Education Act, which passed April 10 with a 92-46 vote, now goes to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for final approval.

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