A common topic facing today’s school districts is student safety – taking the steps to ensure staff and volunteer safety clearances are managed can protect a child and a district’s reputation.
We all appreciate the dedication and sacrifice that school volunteers provide to students – that goes without saying. But it’s imperative that along with staff, volunteers and counselors undergo the appropriate background checks and safety clearances to ensure we are placing students’ safety in the proper hands. Read below to learn more details into this critical issue.
As a result of child abuse cases that have gathered national attention in recent years, there has been a growing trend among states to increase background checks for professions that come in close and regular contact with children. To clarify what a volunteer is, here are some examples of unpaid positions as a volunteer responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children can include:
- Parent/Chaperone at school events
- Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts
- Agency volunteers who help with transportation or other services
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters
- Literacy programs
- Little League/coaches/sports officials
A Pennsylvania law was passed in 2014 requiring anyone who works with students at public and private schools in the state to obtain background checks. This requirement, which was effective July 1, 2015, defines a background check to include both criminal and child abuse checks. This mandate is not uncommon in education settings across the U.S. Does your state have similar requirements?
Unfortunately, the safety clearance process sometimes can cause feelings of anger and distrust among volunteers. While it may cause feelings of privacy invasion, background checks provide an extra layer of protection and put parents’ worries at ease. The majority of volunteers will be happy, willing participants in these strict procedures to protect the vulnerability of children.