Academic Programs at WSU Tri-Cities College of Education

Background Clearance

Fingerprinting and background clearance

Washington State University requires background clearance for all students admitted into the undergraduate teacher preparation programs.

Off-campus students should submit completed Institutional Application and Character and Fitness Supplement to their site coordinator. Pullman and Distance Degree students must return the forms to the Office of Student Services in Education Addition 316, PO Box 642152, Pullman, WA 99164-2152.

To complete a background check, undergraduate students need to complete the following:

  1. An Institutional Application (FORM 4401)
  2. Character and fitness supplement and,
  3. Receive fingerprint clearance from the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and FBI.

Add-on endorsement applicants need to complete the following:

  1. An Institutional Application (FORM 1535)
  2. Character and fitness supplement and,
  3. Receive fingerprint clearance from the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and FBI.

*Applicants who are not employed by a Washington school district and are planning to add an endorsement(s) in: bilingual, deaf education, elementary education, English Language Learners (ELL), reading, or special education, must have a valid background check on file prior to beginning WSU’s add-on endorsement program.


There are several options for getting fingerprint clearance:

Please note that no matter where you go, there is a fee associated with having your fingerprints taken and submitted to the WSP and the FBI. If you have your prints taken at your local law enforcement office you will need to bring a prepared fingerprint card with you. To request a card contact Student Services.

Make sure your hands are in good condition for printing. First, use hand lotion several times a day for at least three days prior to your appointment (do not use lotion the day of fingerprinting). If you have long fingernails, trim them to a reasonable length. If the technician cannot obtain good fingerprints, you will need to repeat the process, and this could delay your practica placement.

Fingerprinting process and facts

  • Fingerprint clearance is valid for two years from the date of FBI clearance.
  • You will only be notified (via US mail) by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) if your prints are rejected.
  • OSPI will state the reason your prints were rejected and what your next steps are.
  • If you need to be reprinted for any reason, it is imperative that you are reprinted as soon as possible. Failure to do so will most likely delay your practicum placement.

Fingerprinting for Pullman-area students

Fingerprinting for Pullman-area students takes place in the Office of Student Services (EdAd 316). The cost is $60, and payment must be in the form of a money order or a cashier’s check (no personal checks), payable to Washington State University. For additional information or to schedule an appointment contact Student Services.

Fingerprinting for all other students

You may complete the fingerprint process in person at one of the educational service district (ESD) offices. The total cost for fingerprinting at the ESD locations is $71.25. You must make an appointment in advance.
In addition, you may be fingerprinted at many law enforcement agencies. Visit the Office of Professional Practices website for additional information.

Character and fitness supplement

The Character and Fitness Supplement is part of the application for certification to teach in the State of Washington. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions on the Character and Fitness Supplement the Office of Professional Practices (OPP) will conduct a formal investigation of the noted situation. An investigation commences only after the WSP and FBI receive your fingerprints.

Please note that no candidate from Washington State University may begin the final field experience (student teaching) until the background investigation is complete and OPP provides authorization via a Letter of Clearance.

Procedure if you answer “yes”

When you answer “yes” on any pertinent part of the application, you must submit applicable documentation with the application. The documentation you submit is held in your file until you are fingerprinted. This information is then sent to the OPP in Olympia and a background investigation is conducted. The results of this investigation are communicated to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Full disclosure is required. Failure to submit, or submission of incomplete information, will delay OSPI’s decision on issuance of a certificate. Any falsification or deliberate misrepresentation, including omission of a material fact, in completion of the Character and Fitness Supplement can be grounds for denial of certification.

“Sealed Records”

If you were arrested, charged, or convicted as a minor, and you were advised by the court that your records were “sealed,” you need to be aware that your arrest/charge/conviction will still appear when the FBI conducts its background check. FBI records are retained for 80 years. Even though you do not have to report a “sealed” incident for employment purposes, you are required to report this for certification purposes. Therefore, as you are applying for certification, you must report events that were “sealed”.

Procedure for providing documentation

  1. Prepare an all-inclusive, detailed written narrative of the incident. The narrative should include when and where the incident occurred, names of others who were present as witnesses or also involved, and all applicable details. This is your perspective and therefore your chance to explain the situation.
  2. Obtain a copy of the police report. This is the arresting officer's narrative of the incident.
  3. Obtain a copy of the judgment and sentencing document from the court.
  4. Obtain a copy of the results of any evaluation that may have been required. (e.g. alcohol evaluation, psychological evaluation, driving school).
  5. Obtain an up-to-date copy of your driving abstract if appropriate.
  6. nclude any other information that will expedite the investigation such as the name of the person to whom you spoke at the courthouse or police station.