Screening out volunteers

Schools are demanding fingerprints, criminal background checks and references from would-be volunteers, including parents offering to chaperon on field trips. The checks can cost volunteers as much as $100, discouraging parents from getting involved.

In California, the volunteer’s fingerprints are checked against a data base of sex offenders, but other criminal convictions — that 20-year-old marijuana arrest — won’t turn up. A TB test also is required. And I had to vow to support the U.S. and California constitutions, though the latter could use some serious trimming, in my opinion.

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  1. Did the educrats have to swear to support the constitutions? Did lightning strike?

  2. I think it’s gross overkill. But … having said that,if 1 volunteer out of a million molested a child, the media would be running headlines like “Lack of Background Check Leads to Child Molestation”! Editorialists would be pontificating about the “lax security in shcool volunteer programs”. And TV talk shows on both the left and the right would be moaning “How could such a thing happen” – and though both would find different root causes – both would ultimately blame the lack of a screening program.

    Soon polititicians would be screaming for a “National Database of School Volunteers” to protect our children from sexual predators. And the lawyers would be suing everyone they could drag into a molestation case citing the lack of such a database as proof of irresponsibility.

    We have whole industries that thrive on rare exceptions … and make even the hint that something bad can happen so costly and risk laden that a school is better off not doing it at all. And if they can’t avoid it, they had better spend most of the allocated resources making sure that it is absolutely, positively 100% safe … or at least be able to prove that they took extraordinary steps to try to make it that way.

    We reap what we sow … and it’s now quite obvious in America that it’s better to deny millions of children a valuable educational activity than face even the slighest possibility that one might be injured in the process.

  3. Bill Leonard says:

    Sadly, Bob, there were too many cases in which pedophiles managed to get into programs such as scouts, Big Brothers and so forth. During the last year or so I worked as a newspaper reporter (it was 1979) I recall covering such a case in a city on the SF Peninsula. The response of the local Big Brother-Big Sister operation was that they did their best, but with no requirement for a background check (and it must be said that such checks, fingerprinting and loyalty-oath signing were highly controversial at the time) there was nothing the organization could do but be deeply regretful after the fact.

  4. Why does it cost $100 to check a database? Is there really more involved than this, or is it bureaucratic inefficiency?

  5. Are similar or stricter checks applied to all teachers and administrators? If not, why not?

  6. A similar screening process and probably for the same rational is part of what drove my wife and me out of foster parenting – want to take a break and go out with the wife for dinner and a movie/theater/symphony ? Simple get a baby sitter, except the sitter for the foster kids has to be background checked, finger printed and TB tested – there goes the option of the teen ager we know well and watched grow up over the past 10 years whose mom will be home as well while we would be gone. I remember one memorable occasion when we had to hire a professional RN at $40/Hr minimum 4 hrs. – that was one EXPENSIVE evening!

  7. D. Cooper says:

    In NYS all new teachers as of several years ago must be finger printed …. if you officiate any high school sport and are not a teacher (as many officials are not) then you must be finger printed. And, the cost of finger printing and the processing can be easily in the $75 to $100 range. So Parker … you can relax, we’re finger printing in NY. I agree with Bob B. … it’s a little bit of over kill. But don’t try arguing this point with a lawyer, they thrive on this crap. It’s one big ‘blame-a-thon’!

  8. Richard Heddleson says:

    At least the Little League didn’t make me swear alliegence to the California Constitution, or the U. S. But otherwise, the same treatment.

  9. “Are similar or stricter checks applied to all teachers and administrators?”
    Well, when I got an emergency teaching credential a few years ago (try finding someone to teach computer science in Palo Alto at the height of the tech boom — heck, try finding someone to maintain the school computer network at the height of the tech boom), I had to get fingerprinted, show my TB test, and pay for what I believe was a background check.

  10. John from OK says:

    If you swear allegiance to the CA constitution, does that mean you swear to uphold all of its amendments of late?

  11. Teachers and other school employees undergo background checks for criminal records. TB tests too, I think.

  12. Mark Odell says:

    Daryl Cobranchi wrote: Did the educrats have to swear to support the constitutions? Did lightning strike?

    That was my first question too: When did those in charge of administering the oath take it, and when did they plan to start abiding by it? Who holds them to it? Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Bill Leonard wrote: Sadly, Bob, there were too many cases in which pedophiles managed to get into programs such as scouts, Big Brothers and so forth.

    I’m still fuzzy on what use the loyalty oath is to screen out e.g. pedophiles, but maybe that’s just me, I dunno :-).

    John from OK wrote: If you swear allegiance to the CA constitution, does that mean you swear to uphold all of its amendments of late?

    No, just the Constitutional ones ;-).

  13. D. Cooper says:

    Ah, Mark and John, you two wouldn’t be discussing ‘that’ amendment now would you? Doesn’t an amendment become a part of the constitution …. thus amending it. If I’m missing something here … I’m sure someone will let me know.

    I guess they just want to make sure that one of Johnny’s daddies or mommies isn’t a bad person!!

  14. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    There’s a lot of faith put in those background checks.

    Yesterday a toddler was left on a daycare van here – yet again. She survived because the weather was temperate, but it was a horrible nine hours for the poor little thing. Well, it turns out that the driver had a criminal record: at one time he was a prison employee and he was accused of forcing a male inmate to perform a sexual act on him. Convicted of a lesser offense – contact with an inmate. And this doesn’t have anything to do with leaving the child on the van, probably, but the point is, he passed his background check because his conviction somehow never made it into the state database. The sheriff says there’s probably no way to determine where the breakdown was. And there’s probably no way to know how often it happens that felony convictions just don’t turn up on background checks, here or anywhere else.

    So you’re spending the $100 to get checked out, and the fact is, the process may not be effective at protecting children from predators.

  15. John from OK says:

    Cooper –
    There’s actually a slew of amendments in the past ten years that CA lawmakers have openly sought to defy. Maybe they didn’t take the oath. But I got off topic – the post is about volunteers. Which has me concluding at this early hour, that gay volunteers must in effect pledge that they don’t marry each other. Not on the bus, anyway.

    p.s. Mark Odell – your link doesn’t work.

  16. Bill Leonard says:

    Mr. Odell, you missed my point, or perhaps read the post too quickly. Background checks and loyalty oaths were unpopular; youth organizations at the time I mentioned typically required neither.

    The fact is, fingerprinting, loyalty oath and background check were required to get a teaching job at any level in California in those days (late 70s) and had been so required since at least the 1950s.

    The fingerprint controversy surfaced in the Bay Area earlier in the decade when Jessica Mitford, that old Marxist gadfly, raised hell when the state required her to be printed in order to work as a lecturer at a state college.

    The oath was signed by everyone, and included a lengthy list of organizations, many of which, then and now, seemed ludicrous. The Black Dragon Society (Japanese sympathizers during WWII)? The Abraham Lincoln Brigade? The Committee to Free Bosnia-Herzegovina? In any event, it was quite controversial at the time.

    Big Brothers (and for that matter, Scouts and lot of other youth organizations) did not require background checks. Had they done so, conceiveably the criminal record of the individual involved in the case I mentioned might have surfaced earlier.

  17. Mark Odell says:

    D. Cooper wrote: Ah, Mark and John, you two wouldn’t be discussing ‘that’ amendment now would you?

    If we’re thinking of the same ‘that’ amendment, then here‘s where I’d begin the discussion.

    Bill Leonard wrote: Mr. Odell, you missed my point, or perhaps read the post too quickly.

    No, I got your point; I was merely trying to make a joke about a seeming incongruity that struck me as humorous. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

    p.s. John from OK – yes it does.

  18. Bizarre. I understand, and support, the use of criminal record checks for people working with kids – but in my city the fee is waived for volunteers. The coordinator of the mentoring program with which I am a volunteer said that she’d spoken with the police department personally to get the fee waived. Perhaps schools could do that?

  19. D. Cooper says:

    In my area where I mentioned people officiating high school sports are finger printed, our officials governing body negotiated with the schools to waive the fee also. Not true in some other areas. Ultimately, there are some costs involved which need to be paid. I guess if you want to protect your house from burglaries, you’ll have to pay … unless you can get the burglers to pay.