Background Checks for School Volunteers?

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Background Checks for School Volunteers?

Good idea or prohibitive?

NBC Montana takes a closer look at background checks for school volunteers | Local News - Home

[h=1]NBC Montana takes a closer look at background checks for school volunteers[/h] [h=2]GALLATIN COUNTY[/h] By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, [EMAIL=kmozzone@ktvm.com]kmozzone@ktvm.com[/EMAIL]
POSTED: 7:57 PM Apr 12 2013

NBC Montana takes a closer look at background checks for school volunteers (04/12/13)

BOZEMAN, Mont. - We told you earlier this week how a Belgrade parent was worried after a volunteer held his six-year-old daughter's hand and asked for hugs.

The school district looked into it, and says it was a case of miscommunication and that the volunteer did nothing wrong.
Yet, the parent tells us he's still concerned after learning Belgrade Schools doesn't check the criminal backgrounds of their volunteers.
We looked up Montana's law when it comes to background checks and found they are required for all school employees.

Background checks are not required for volunteers as long as they are under teachers' supervision.

Volunteers must undergo a background check, however, if they are going to be alone with children.

We called local schools in the area to find out their policy when it comes to background checks for volunteers and found that most districts- Gallatin Gateway, Manhattan and Bozeman Schools- only require background checks for those volunteers who are alone with children.

Folks with Ennis Schools tell me they require background checks for anyone working with kids.

Some parents tell me, that's how schools should operate.

"I think it should be mandatory, definitely. Anybody can come in and look like a good person but you don't know their past," says Bozeman mother of four Selah Barney.

Patti Blake is a grandmother. She says you can never be too careful these days and while she wouldn't insist on checks as much for parents of children attending the school, she does believe it should be required for all other volunteers.

"Even if it's somebody else's daddy or mommy, they don't always have the kids' best interest at heart and you just have to watch out. You don't know who lives next door to you," explains Blake.

Bozeman teacher Emmy Nadav tells us she'd like to think volunteers have the best intentions.

"Maybe it would be a good idea for background checks for volunteers. I mean, just to see what they're whole background is and to see what kind of intention they have for coming to the school," says Nadav.

But she says she doesn't think background checks are necessary for parent volunteers.

We also checked with other schools in the region and found that schools in Cody Wyoming fingerprint all of their employees and are now working to expand their policy to volunteers.

Volunteer coaches in Spokane must be fingerprinted but all other volunteers there go through a Washington state background check.

All Spokane volunteers are re-checked every two years.

They say the school district is also required to keep track of the number of volunteers and their hours and report that to the state.
All school volunteers in Portland, Oregon, must submit to a criminal background check.

In the Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, Colorado, occasional volunteers must be checked against the sex offender registry and folks who volunteer regularly have to submit to full background checks.

  • Copyright 2013 by KECI, KCFW, KTVM. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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I think anyone who is around kids in a supervisory/work/assistant role, whether you're getting paid for it or not, should have a background check. Not being on payroll doesn't make you any less of a pedophile or child abuser or a person with a violent history, etc.

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I ask, because I don't know if I'd be willing to let the school do a background check on me for the few days a year that I do volunteer.

It comes down to:

What does it include? Criminal check? Sex offender registry? Sure to both of those. Credit check? Probably not.

Who does the checking? Who pays for the checking?

When I applied to be a substitute a few years ago, it was $30 from me. I also had to have a TB test.

Sad to say, but I might not be a volunteer.

And what about kid's halloween parties or valentines parties. Usually a bunch of mommies volunteer to bring treats and balloons, etc?

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I don't think a background check should be required for someone who is not alone with children. We have a close friend who has no children that likes to help out once in awhile in my step-daughters class because she has known her since she was a baby and took care of her a lot while her mother was sick. I don't think she should have to go through a background check to help out with a school party or help chaperone a field trip. They have a hard enough time getting volunteers to do those things they shouldn't make it more work.

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Here, if you want to volunteer and there is a chance you will be alone with a child or children (reading in the hallway etc) then you need a criminal record check. If you are staying in the classroom with the teacher the whole time (for a party etc) then you dont need one. They are done by the RCMP, and you basically get a pass or a fail to work with children, and then you take that document to the school. The school is never told why you failed if you do. Im not sure how often they need to be redone, as I am an 'employed teacher' with the district so I didnt have to get another one done. As an aside, I only have to get one every 5 years as a teacher.

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At the school I teach at all volunteers have to have a background check, and they are required to pay for it. I think it is a bit overboard, if a mom is just coming in to take pictures at a valentines party or watch her kids during field day. But all of the parents at my school seem to appreciate the extra step to protect their kids.

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They do them for my kids schools every yr.

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As an aside, I had a background check done at my employer's expense when I accepted the job offer. I don't work with kids, or in law enforcement or the justice system. I didn't care - I have nothing to hide.

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You have to here. As a volunteer working with children you must hold what is called a blue card which is a working with children check. If you are a volunteer it's free, if it's for paid employment it has a cost. It can be obtained by one agency then confirmed by any other agency you may work with.

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"ClairesMommy" wrote:

As an aside, I had a background check done at my employer's expense when I accepted the job offer. I don't work with kids, or in law enforcement or the justice system. I didn't care - I have nothing to hide.

Yea, I get one done on me every 5 years due to DH's job, plus every 5 years for teaching (not the same 5 years) and I have to get one for doing daycare. I have also had them in the past for various volunteering, student teaching etc. It always amazes me when people say they have never had one. I have had soooooo many!

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All a criminal background check says is if you have been caught yet or not. I am not in favour of them.

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"ClairesMommy" wrote:

As an aside, I had a background check done at my employer's expense when I accepted the job offer. I don't work with kids, or in law enforcement or the justice system. I didn't care - I have nothing to hide.

Goodness, I don't feel that I have anything to hide!

I have had many a background check for various work related reasons, but I don't know that I think it is a good idea for parent volunteers when they are always working with a teacher. I mean, I go and pick up my kid everyday. If I go into the school, I sign in at the front office. I suppose there is potential that I might be alone in the hall with a child at some point. Should I have a background check to pick up my kid?

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I don't think it is needed for supervised volunteers. For those who are alone with kids, yes definitely. But for the parents who are running bake sales and blowing up balloons with a teacher in the room, no I don't think it is necessary. In fact I think it would drive parents away who couldn't' afford the check.

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I think it's a ridiculous waste of resources and am so glad my kids school does not do this.

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"bunnyfufu" wrote:

Goodness, I don't feel that I have anything to hide!

I have had many a background check for various work related reasons, but I don't know that I think it is a good idea for parent volunteers when they are always working with a teacher. I mean, I go and pick up my kid everyday. If I go into the school, I sign in at the front office. I suppose there is potential that I might be alone in the hall with a child at some point. Should I have a background check to pick up my kid?

lol...oh goodness, Sammy, I hope I didn't sound like I thought YOU had something to hide!

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I'm sorry, but it is ridiculous that every volunteer would need a background check. In the primary grades, parents will come in to run copies or cut out projects. They rarely have contact with children and wouldn't be alone with them. Other parents might listen to a child read or run flashcards with a student near the back/corner of the classroom. As others have said, parents volunteer for class parties or extracurricular activities. Parents also have the right to visit their child(ren)'s classrooms with a certain amount of notice. If I can sit in my child's class to make sure she is behaving, why wouldn't I be able to collate packets while I'm there? KWIM

Our volunteer policy is that anyone who might be alone with a child must have the fingerprint scan and TB test. Makes sense because they will be under the supervision of employees at all times.

Fingerprints and background checks are going to come back fine until there is a problem. A pedophile may have many victims before a conviction. A former special ed aide had sex with a student several times before she was fired and thrown in prison. A principal had been in our district for over a decade before he was arrested for arranging a meeting with who he thought was a 13 YO girl.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

I'm sorry, but it is ridiculous that every volunteer would need a background check. In the primary grades, parents will come in to run copies or cut out projects. They rarely have contact with children and wouldn't be alone with them. Other parents might listen to a child read or run flashcards with a student near the back/corner of the classroom. As others have said, parents volunteer for class parties or extracurricular activities. Parents also have the right to visit their child(ren)'s classrooms with a certain amount of notice. If I can sit in my child's class to make sure she is behaving, why wouldn't I be able to collate packets while I'm there? KWIM

You made the point that came to my mind. Aren't ALL parents allowed to enter the school to visit their child's classroom or to pick them up? Are you going to require ALL parents then to have background checks -- just in case they may stop in at some point? What about grandma's, aunts, or uncles? What about those coming in to speak to student assemblies on issues of drunk driving, fire safety, or sharing their profession?

Are all those adults chaperoning field trips going to undergo a background check as well?

What about parents kids may come in contact with that volunteer at their local sports league in concessions or field clean up? (I know coaches and umpires/referees are required to undergo checks in most organizations already.)

My personal opinion it may be required as a means of employment or a regular volunteer working one on one with children... outside of that volunteers that are supervised should get a pass.

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"blather" wrote:

All a criminal background check says is if you have been caught yet or not. I am not in favour of them.

Or if you are under immediate suspicion, charges pending etc.

I understand what you are saying, but I guess that I just don't really get the 'if we cant identify all pedophiles, then lets not bother to try and keep any out of the schools' mentality. And I am definitely not someone who trusts %100 in a criminal record check. I had DH look in to the family services worker at my sons preschool (off the record so to speak) cause he is really friendly, they hang out in his office (with a closed door) and he gave DS toys and 'treats'. DH did a quick search, and he has been there for almost 20 years with no indications of anything inappropriate.....so probably just mommy paranoia. But even though I know that some people slip through the system and things can still happen, I also know that there are parents of DD's classmates that I am really glad can not spend time alone with her in the school, because they will not pass a criminal record check.

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I don't think I feel like "who-cares or why-bother."

I think I feel more that there are precautions in place. Aren't there already restrictions for people who have been convicted of sexual offences?

I don't think that violent criminals are clamoring to sit down with a bunch of kindergarten students and help them write the abc's.

Regular parents / or even the weird parents (every school has them) who are volunteering at the school, with a teacher in the room sounds VERY safe to me. :shrug:

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There are tons of parent volunteers at our school plus student teachers and I have never worried about it, nor will I. In a country that won't force proper background checks for gun buyers, it seems like an odd area to focus on and doesn't strike me as something that would be effective.

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"bunnyfufu" wrote:

I don't think I feel like "who-cares or why-bother."

I think I feel more that there are precautions in place. Aren't there already restrictions for people who have been convicted of sexual offences?

I don't think that violent criminals are clamoring to sit down with a bunch of kindergarten students and help them write the abc's.

Regular parents / or even the weird parents (every school has them) who are volunteering at the school, with a teacher in the room sounds VERY safe to me. :shrug:

There are, but how would the school know if someone decided to break there restrictions before it happened if they didnt do a check? In my experience there are many ways that a parent volunteer would be alone with a child, or small group of children. I have often been asked to take a child into a quiet place and read, review, supervise a test, etc. I have no problem with supervised volunteers not having checks, but if someone is going to be alone with my child, I want the check done. Again, in my experience, teachers know who has what checks, and will act accordingly (When subbing, if a parent is coming in my notes will include what they are able to do).
The second part of this is my husbands job, but really my kids are not the only ones in this situation. When I say there are parents of kids in DDs class I would not want alone with my child, it is not because they are pedophiles, but because my husband has testified against them, or they are known drug dealers. There have been situations in our town where children were approached on the playground and given a 'message' for there cop parent, or a picture taken of them at an extra curricular. I want to know that my child is as safe as I can make her from this when I am not around. It would be an invasion of privacy for me to personally ask for all the parents info, so I am glad the school does it.

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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

There are tons of parent volunteers at our school plus student teachers and I have never worried about it, nor will I. In a country that won't force proper background checks for gun buyers, it seems like an odd area to focus on and doesn't strike me as something that would be effective.

Dont agree with this either, but I'm not sure what one has to do with the other?

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"MissyJ" wrote:

You made the point that came to my mind. Aren't ALL parents allowed to enter the school to visit their child's classroom or to pick them up? Are you going to require ALL parents then to have background checks -- just in case they may stop in at some point? What about grandma's, aunts, or uncles? What about those coming in to speak to student assemblies on issues of drunk driving, fire safety, or sharing their profession?

Are all those adults chaperoning field trips going to undergo a background check as well?

What about parents kids may come in contact with that volunteer at their local sports league in concessions or field clean up? (I know coaches and umpires/referees are required to undergo checks in most organizations already.)

My personal opinion it may be required as a means of employment or a regular volunteer working one on one with children... outside of that volunteers that are supervised should get a pass.

Speaking of our school district, only people who are alone with the kids need the background check. So visiting, picking up, assemblies, no. Field trips, yes, and if you are driving you require a drivers abstract too. Sports leagues are separate from school districts.

I'm not sure why employment should matter. I was in a school for a time where they had a grandparents 'club', where the same 4-5 seniors came in weekly to read with children of all ages and grade levels. The kids came to know these people really well and they were trusted adults in the school. To me that is not much different than a teacher when it comes to the child's perception of things.

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"ftmom" wrote:

Speaking of our school district, only people who are alone with the kids need the background check. So visiting, picking up, assemblies, no. Field trips, yes, and if you are driving you require a drivers abstract too. Sports leagues are separate from school districts.

I'm not sure why employment should matter. I was in a school for a time where they had a grandparents 'club', where the same 4-5 seniors came in weekly to read with children of all ages and grade levels. The kids came to know these people really well and they were trusted adults in the school. To me that is not much different than a teacher when it comes to the child's perception of things.

That is the current standard on the original question too.

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I don't feel like who cares why bother. Nor do I feel like doing silly hoop jumping exercises actually increases my children's safety any. If you want to do things just to give you a warm fuzzy feeling of safety with no real impact, go for it. I don't need that.

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"ftmom" wrote:

There are, but how would the school know if someone decided to break there restrictions before it happened if they didnt do a check? In my experience there are many ways that a parent volunteer would be alone with a child, or small group of children. I have often been asked to take a child into a quiet place and read, review, supervise a test, etc. I have no problem with supervised volunteers not having checks, but if someone is going to be alone with my child, I want the check done. Again, in my experience, teachers know who has what checks, and will act accordingly (When subbing, if a parent is coming in my notes will include what they are able to do).
The second part of this is my husbands job, but really my kids are not the only ones in this situation. When I say there are parents of kids in DDs class I would not want alone with my child, it is not because they are pedophiles, but because my husband has testified against them, or they are known drug dealers. There have been situations in our town where children were approached on the playground and given a 'message' for there cop parent, or a picture taken of them at an extra curricular. I want to know that my child is as safe as I can make her from this when I am not around. It would be an invasion of privacy for me to personally ask for all the parents info, so I am glad the school does it.

I am a little confused.

So you say that there are situations when the volunteer would be alone with the kids, but that the teachers would know who should and who shouldn't.

It's not the paid or unpaid thing I have issue with. I agree that people who are with the children in an unsupervised capacity should have a check. And they already do.

It's the checking of all volunteers. That I am concerned about.

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"bunnyfufu" wrote:

I am a little confused.

So you say that there are situations when the volunteer would be alone with the kids, but that the teachers would know who should and who shouldn't.

It's not the paid or unpaid thing I have issue with. I agree that people who are with the children in an unsupervised capacity should have a check. And they already do.

It's the checking of all volunteers. That I am concerned about.

I am saying that teachers know who has a background check and who doesnt. Where I see it most is when a parent wants to help out, but the check is pending. The note will mention that, and then list what the parent can do to help that keeps them in the class, or copying etc.

ETA: People are saying that they dont think any volunteers should be checked though, which I disagree with. To me, it is just one tool that we use to keep our kids safe at school. Not the only thing, but useful non the less.

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"ftmom" wrote:

ETA: People are saying that they dont think any volunteers should be checked though, which I disagree with. To me, it is just one tool that we use to keep our kids safe at school. Not the only thing, but useful non the less.

I wasn't reading it the same way. I know Blather and I think she was being brief and popping in to agree with my POV. But I shouldn't speak for her. Smile

I think everyone gets that unsupervised volunteers have BG checks. Again, I could be wrong.

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We have two different types of volunteers: parents and non-parents. If you are a parent at the school, you can volunteer for a whole host of things that don't require alone-time with the kids, including field trip chaperones you aren't allowed to be alone with any child, you always stay in groups. All non-parent volunteers, and any parent volunteers who will have one-on-one time with kids outside a teacher's supervision, need to attend an orientation session, get fingerprinted for a background check (they ask you to cover the $73 cost but will accept a small donation if you can't afford the whole thiing), provide two personal non-family or business references, and have a negative TB test within the last four years.

I think that's completely reasonable. I might not know all the parents at school, but I at least know all their names from our parent directory so I could (have!) Google them if I hear anything or see anything odd. But most of us have no idea who any of the non-parent volunteers are, so yes, I think someone needs to do some checking on them. While I appreciate the intent to help the kids, if you don't have a child in the school, you simply don't have the kind of investment in the kids as the parents. And if anyone has any one-on-one access to my kid, parent or not, I want to know they have passed some kind of check. People who know they can't get through the hoops don't put themselves in the position to need to try jumping, kwim?

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I agree with the above 100%!

My initial question, which was answered, was if teachers are clear on which volunteers are background checked (and therefore allowed to be one-on-one with kids) and which aren't. My concern was that if the teacher doesn't know or can't keep track of that with all of their volunteers, they could easily let a volunteer be alone with a child (for example, even just walking a child to the bathroom or whatever).

I'm okay with not having them on supervised volunteers as long as the teachers are well informed and the volunteer clearly understand that they can't be alone with a child for any reason. I do agree it would seem impossible to background check EVERY person who is in contact with the children at all, and it's tough to draw the line anywhere other than supervised volunteers vs. unsupervised volunteers. However, I like the idea of having non-parent volunteers always background checked.

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Are you guys familiar with typical patterns common to actual child abuse situations. It would not be typical for an adult to - say- rape or fondle a child they barely know in their 5 minutes alone with them in a school bathroom. Nothing about occasional volunteers in the school doing normal parental volunteer things (PTO sales, spring fair set up, handing out donuts on donuts with dad day etc) lends itself to the sort of grooming that a pedophile would do- the trust they would establish, the time it would take them to develop a relationship that could then become predatory. I just think that it's totally okay for- say- a parent volunteer to walk my child (my verbal well versed on stranger danger good touch v bad touch etc) to a bathroom on a field trip or volunteer to lead his team on flag day without having to be background checked. The stats are clear this THIS is not where abuse is happening. So this check is, like, wasting time in a problem that does not exist. It's paranoid thinking. If you are worried that a parent volunteer might be a kidnapper or something a background check won't do anything to prevent that- that's all about your schools safety and security procedures. So many people don't worry about those but god forbid pop pop doesn't get a background check before coming to be a mystery reader! It's silly.

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"Potter75" wrote:

Are you guys familiar with typical patterns common to actual child abuse situations. It would not be typical for an adult to - say- rape or fondle a child they barely know in their 5 minutes alone with them in a school bathroom. Nothing about occasional volunteers in the school doing normal parental volunteer things (PTO sales, spring fair set up, handing out donuts on donuts with dad day etc) lends itself to the sort of grooming that a pedophile would do- the trust they would establish, the time it would take them to develop a relationship that could then become predatory. I just think that it's totally okay for- say- a parent volunteer to walk my child (my verbal well versed on stranger danger good touch v bad touch etc) to a bathroom on a field trip or volunteer to lead his team on flag day without having to be background checked. The stats are clear this THIS is not where abuse is happening. So this check is, like, wasting time in a problem that does not exist. It's paranoid thinking. If you are worried that a parent volunteer might be a kidnapper or something a background check won't do anything to prevent that- that's all about your schools safety and security procedures. So many people don't worry about those but god forbid pop pop doesn't get a background check before coming to be a mystery reader! It's silly.

I hear you. And I agree.

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I have different idea.. anyone that can't be alone with children never is let back into society, then we would never need background checks Wink

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I get what you're saying, Melis, but I do believe that predators can & do groom students at school even if the abuse doesn't happen there. And over the course of a school year, they can get to know the kids pretty well. Yes, the kids need to be aware of stranger danger and good touch/bad touch and all that, but when they know someone is trusted with them at school, they might be more likely to trust that person outside of school more than they should. I don't think common sense should be dropped simply because someone has a volunteer badge, but I have no problem at all with PopPop needing to be screened before being given access to my kids. We are always running into people at the grocery store, on the bus, walking down the street, that my daughter says is or was a volunteer at school, and the thought of those dozens of people having access to her on a weekly basis without any kind of screening is rather horrifying.

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Jerry Sandusky would have passed a background check 18 mos ago. It's a fake sense of security.

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I agree, I think it's a fake sense of security too.

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If the world worked the right way, Jerry Sandusky would have been in prison after the first-known incident came to light in 2002, which was two years before my kids were born. That was not a fake sense of security, it was the failure of Penn State to make him take responsibility for what they knew he did to that boy. Background checks, or the threat of having one done, is keeping at least the three parents at our school that I know have convictions for violent crimes, from having easy access to my kids, and that is NOT a bad thing.

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You aren't getting my point.

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I dont think it is a false sense of security. No one is saying that just because background checks are done everything is hunky dorry. They are ONE TOOL, and one I am happy is used here. And I agree that by having the adult in the school and the teacher sending the child to be alone with them, it makes them a trusted adult to the child and that is when the grooming and abuse can start.

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I do not think background checks are a bad thing if you are going to be alone with a child. I do see Melissa's point, however I do know of teachers that have molested students in the classroom. While tragic and rare it does happen. If a background check would help only a handful of kids, it would still be worth it. That said, it is a waste to do a check on every single volunteer. I would think only those that will be alone with the children.

I am thinking of a teacher that taught in WNY when my mother was a child in 5th grade. It was well known among the students that the teacher would take the students into the back room and molest them. No one ever turned them in. 30 years later when my cousin was in the same school with the same teacher, the same thing was happening. She and a few other students reported it, and 30 years of abuse came to light. I am not sure that a background check could have helped in that situation, but I wanted to point out that abuse can happen during school. When I went to school there was a huge mess with my Earth Science teacher sleeping with the students. After that happened, it came to light that he had been fired in two different States for the same situation, but no one had checked with his past employment before hiring him. I am not saying this is common, it is not. It does happen though.

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I believe it's a paranoid and unfounded fear to believe that a parent school volunteer seeks to molest your children. I simply think its not a valid fear - I can't imaging living that way.

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"Potter75" wrote:

I think it's a ridiculous waste of resources and am so glad my kids school does not do this.

"Potter75" wrote:

I don't feel like who cares why bother. Nor do I feel like doing silly hoop jumping exercises actually increases my children's safety any. If you want to do things just to give you a warm fuzzy feeling of safety with no real impact, go for it. I don't need that.

"Potter75" wrote:

You aren't getting my point.

Your point seems to be to let anyone into the school who wants to be there, regardless of a known history of violent convictions or allegations of inappropriate conduct. That doesn't fly with me. Background checks do have an impact at my school, and I'm very happy that those dads aren't going to have one-on-one contact with my daughter. I certainly don't expect any of them to go into a blind rage at school and beat the crap out of her, but I don't want someone that I know was capable of doing that to someone else, to be in a position of trust with my child. You seem to be OK with that; I'm not.

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Have you ever heard of that happening? I don't worry about statistical non issues, no. I'm too logical.

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"Potter75" wrote:

Have you ever heard of that happening? I don't worry about statistical non issues, no. I'm too logical.

No, but I have heard of children being molested by classmates parents, coaches, bus drivers, the nice grandfatherly guy who helps out at the school. Not to mention kids being threatened by adults around the school.

Again, I dont think it is paranoid or fearful to use the tools that are available to us. It is a tool, it is available and IMO helpful, I dont get the argument AGAINST it.

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Do you background check classmates? We have had all 4 grandparents in my kids school this year as well as myself. It's ridiculous to make us go to the police station and pay for a background check. Crazy.

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"Potter75" wrote:

Do you background check classmates? We have had all 4 grandparents in my kids school this year as well as myself. It's ridiculous to make us go to the police station and pay for a background check. Crazy.

Ummmm no. That would be paranoid Smile Thats great that you have had all those people in your child's school. I assume it is not a regular thing and that they were not alone with the students, so yea, it would be ridiculous to require a background check. I am really not understanding your argument. Have you made one?

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"ftmom" wrote:

Ummmm no. That would be paranoid Smile Thats great that you have had all those people in your child's school. I assume it is not a regular thing and that they were not alone with the students, so yea, it would be ridiculous to require a background check. I am really not understanding your argument. Have you made one?

Excuse me grumpy pants? Yes- my argument is that requiring background checks of parent volunteers is silly. Doesn't seem to be working well in your area as it sounds like kids are being preyed upon by any and everyone in your schools. How sad. We live in a very safe community- frankly convicted felons have a hard time affording our area. We don't have a lot of convicts child molesters in our zip codes or surrounding ones. I just don't agree with unfounded paranoiA.

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You call it a statistical non-issue, I call it keeping known felons from having regular access to the children at school. I don't think 2.5% is a statistically irrelevant percentage. I'd wonder if you really knew the parents at your school, if you might find a similar percentage of parents who would not qualify for a volunteer badge. They seem to be raising nice kids, and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in a lot of ways. I am not willing to give them unsupervised time with my child. That's not paranoid; that's protection.

And unless you live in Manhattan, I think my area has at least a comparable cost of living as yours, and lots of convicted felons still manage to live here. They can still do a lot of well-paying jobs.

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Parent volunteers must do super duper different things in your school than mine

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Not sure what background checks in all schools are for. The 2 schools I am most familiar with (the school I teach at, and the school my oldest goes to) are looking for things besides pedophilia. They are checking for drunk driving convictions, or vehicular violations that may limit ability to drive for school events. They look for any domestic or other violent crimes, drug arrests, or theft. Basically, they both say that past convictions will not prohibit people from working in the school, but may limit what capacity they are working in the school.
I would not love to have a meth user handing out doughnuts to my children, but that is just me

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We would never- ever- have a parent driving for a school event. And frankly if a parent is clean and neat and kind- I don't care what they do in their spare time when they are giving of their free time handing out doughnuts in a crowded gymnasium. Are you seriously afraid they are going to get your kid hooked on meth? I have so so much more faith in my kids. Don't you guys live in the community? You know in the real world you can't make this fake bubble of perfect land, right? What on earth are your kids going to do when they have to encounter real people, lol?

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