Louisiana has become the first state to ban public colleges from asking about criminal history. Last year the Department of Education asked colleges to voluntarily remove criminal history questions from their applications, and some large public university systems including California’s and New York’s – as well as some private colleges – have done so. But Louisiana’s is the first statewide ban. The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, vetoed a similar law for college applications in May, saying “Parents have an expectation that the school to which they entrust their child will do everything possible to keep their students safe.”
As many as 70 to 100 million Americans have some kind of criminal record, with the highest proportion in minority communities. The “ban the box” movement is intended to open opportunities to these Americans by preventing discrimination on the basis of those records alone. Twenty-four states, Washington, D.C., and the federal government now prohibit asking about a criminal record on public job applications.