Fingerprinting parents who want to help

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Sarge, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Our principal has told us that that the district now requires any parent who wants to come on campus and help in your class - even if they are under the direct supervision of the teacher - to be fingerprinted and have a background check at a cost (to them) of around $70.

    This includes any parent who wants to go on a field trip, or even attend a class birthday party.

    We're not talking about checking the Megan's Law Database to see if they are a sex offender. We're talking holding parent volunteers to the same standard for criminal background checks as school employees.

    But here's something else. Our stated board policy, and the school district website say the following:

    Volunteers who work under the direct supervision of WUSD staff and are never alone with students, and who are not developing individual mentoring relationships with students, do not need fingerprint clearance; however, the sex offender clearance described above applies.

    So on Tuesday we're going on a walking field trip. No parents in my class have had the background check. I have to walk 20 kids over a mile and cross a six lane busy street. According to the edict, I cannot allow any parent of any child in my class to accompany me.

    I have a huge problem with this.

    First of all, it's dangerous. Getting 20 first graders through a very busy intersection is something I'm not even sure how I will do. Normally, we take a stop sign and have one parent to on each side of the street to control the kids.

    Second, I'm not sure if I can even legally say to a parent they can't come. We are walking in on a public street to a public place. Show me where I have the authority to tell a parent of a student they cannot walk with our class.

    Our district does not provide buses for field trips. They don't allow parents to drive. Now we can't even go someplace within walking distance.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    We have a similar policy, but it is taken care of by the school. We scan IDs and take fingerprints of the parents at their child's school and then the district pays whatever the cost is. It is nice to know who you are dealing with these days.

    But I agree with you. You are walking on a public street to a public place. You don't really have authority to tell a parent that they cannot walk with you. I would suggest talking with your administration about this and letting them know you don't feel comfortable turning parents away.
     
  4. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    That's extreme. Parental involvement even during school hours is very beneficial (especially at the elementary level), and to make it that difficult is such a counterintuitive move.

    If students are walking on a pubic street to a public place, I'm not sure if the district can legally impose that policy in a public environment if school buses aren't being used.
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    We had the same policy in my old district. While on the one hand, I can see their reasoning, on the other hand, it made it harder to get parents involved in an area where it was already difficult. I worked in the inner city and most of my parents simply did not have the $65 required for the background check, so even if they wanted too, and had the time, they couldn't. My principal got some grant money to help, but it wasn't enough.

    My old district was totally unreasonable about it too. It had to be the school district background check. I had a few friends at church who were rather upset, not because of the money, but because one was a police officer and the other was an FBI agent. But that wasn't good enough.
     
  6. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    That's a difficult situation, Sarge. I think it is prudent of school systems to require background checks on ANY person that is going to be working with or around their students - including volunteers. As a parent, I would have no problem with this.

    Our own district requires all interested persons take "volunteer training" (usually about a 1.5 hr session) before they can assist in a classroom or accompany students on a field trip. We don't have to submit to fingerprints, but I believe a background check is part of the procedure as well. I believe that, in our case, the school pays for the background check because they are the ones covering their behinds, but I can certainly understand a district asking parents to pay that cost.

    I agree the $70 cost is high and probably prevents a lot of parents that would consider volunteering from doing so, but speaking as a parent again, I've never been upset or frustrated about the school system wanting to increase the security and safety of my boys.

    As for the field trip itself, you're right that you cannot legally tell a parent they cannot walk along a public street or enter a public venue at the same time their child happens to be walking on that same street to that same venue. We've had parents who had NOT gone through the volunteer training ask if they could go on field trips with their kids. The district answer is "You cannot accompany your child to the destination of the trip, but the school cannot prevent you from visiting the destination on your own, as long as you provide your own transportation and purchase your own ticket. Once the student arrives at the destination, if the parent wants to "sign them out" and accept responsibility for their safety and welfare, they can do that. They just cannot assist with any other students. The same is true if the parent wants to let the student ride home with them...as long as they sign them out, they relieve the school of any responsibility for that child.

    One last thing about volunteers. It is almost impossible to say "they are never alone with the kids or unsupervised at any time". I think we all know teachers feel a little freer to go to the bathroom or run make some copies in the office if they have a volunteer assistant in the room because they will "just be gone a few minutes". On field trips, volunteers are routinely assigned a group or set of students to supervise and, unless the entire class stays together every minute of the trip, the volunteer WILL be "alone" with their kids at some point in time.

    I've been on many field trips as a teacher and parent volunteer both. One very popular destination for our district is the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. I can tell you for a fact that the groups NEVER stay together through the entire visit. In fact the only trips I've been on where the entire class (or an entire group from the class) DID stay together for the entire trip was a Pre-K trip to a pumpkin farm and a visit to the Lost Sea (the class was divided into two groups there).

    I know first grade is MUCH different than middle school, but my boys made several trips to the aquarium when they were in elementary school and the we always ended up going in different directions eventually.

    Finally, a parent does have to be a sex offender to represent a danger to a child. Someone who has multiple arrests for DUI or domestic violence could easily be just as dangerous. So could the mother that has been reported to CPS for neglect or abuse of her kids.

    I fully understand the frustration this creates for you when you try to plan enrichment activities for your kids, but I can't really fault the district for erring on the side of caution, even if they are being somewhat overly cautious.
     
  7. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    I think the concern is that it is MORE dangerous for students not to be accompanied by more than one adult when crossing a busy highway. The policy, therefore, increases the physical risk to students on field trips.
     
  8. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Be careful how you word things. Being reported means nothing. I know at least one situation where the mother was reported for neglect by an apartment complex manager in retaliation for going over their heads to the property owner over a maintenance issue. That actually resulted in legal action....against the management (for abuse of the system and false reporting), but the fact that the mother was reported is still in the system. Does that mother represent a danger to you?
     
  9. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    Oh dear.......this means it will be heading to "money-grabbing" UKplc next ! Teachers should stand up and be counted sometimes....but we NEVER do !

    In UKplc they ( crap government) have CRB checks....carried out by a money grabbing government office in......wait for it.....Liverpool....a city of criminals !!!!!
     
  10. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    An alternative may be to request your most trusted substitutes (who are already vetted) to accompany you on field trips. They'd be on the clock, so the school would have to pay for their time, but the policy would be enforced. Also, you'd know you'd have zero flakiness in the adults on your trip.

    At the very least, it might be amusing to run that past your principal.
     
  11. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    I give up ! Does ANYONE have ANY trust in people anymore ? The UKplc government has MADE MONEY out of creating suspicion....clearly we got it from your end.......!:thanks:
     
  12. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    I think it is a CYA thing...our church has to background check everyone who wants to teach Sunday School, not because we believe anyone is dangerous, but because if something did come up, we could be sued...
     
  13. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    I like the idea, but in some districts, they dock the pay of the teacher who hires the sub in order to pay the sub. But if the district pays for the sub, go for it!
     
  14. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    Bloody hell , no wonder half the world doesn't trust "The West"....we don't even trust ourselves ! Sad state of affairs really !:|
     
  15. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    I'd love to see a US/UKplc politically-correct version of the nativity....with the kings and shepherds being refused entry to the stable as they had not been checked !!!!!!:dizzy:
     
  16. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Sarge, I am sorry to hear that because, as you know, in California once one district decides on something like this many others jump on the bandwagon. I am very skeptical it really has anything to do with protecting children - more like it is to protect the district from potential law suits. I know our district was fairly lax about volunteer coaches and they have come down hard - even having a fingerprint person go to football practices and pull coaches off the field and fingerprint them right there. Some local districts require t.b. tests of volunteers because of the high immigrant population.
     
  17. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    Maybe we are ALL teaching in a BIG prison....and we just don't know it ?
     
  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I do think that the school has an obligation to ensure that adults who are allowed to work with children are "safe". Children in school are a captive audience who can't just leave if they feel unsafe or if they are around a predator. If we're going to have a place where we require children to be, then we need to do our best to make sure that the adults in that place won't hurt them.

    I don't necessarily agree with the extreme measures that some of your districts are taking. I think it should suffice to run a brief background check and to make sure that no unlicensed adult is ever left alone with children. I don't think parents should have to pay for this, but I know that schools are already strapped for money as it is, so I don't know where the money would come from.
     
  19. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    Hmmm "background check" thats fine...no problem. Fingerprints.....Bizarre mentality !
     
  20. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Well said. If the students are obligated to be there under the supervision of an adult, it is society's responsibility to make sure that those adults are capable of taking care of them.

    There ARE extremes, and some districts skirt the line between common-sense policies to protect students and unreasonable policies that do more harm than good. I suppose that's where WE come in as teachers, parents, concerned citizens, and students. If the system is unreasonable, we should voice our opinions to administration and the school board. Getting parents involved would be a great way to be heard.

    I'm glad to see that some districts have streamlined the process of background checks and fingerprinting and made it much less degrading. When I went to be fingerprinted several years ago, the process was actually done in groups. Several of us showed up at an appointed time at the police department and went to a lab in the back with an officer who helped us with the process. I was fingerprinted in order to work in a daycare. The other folks in the group were nursing students preparing for their clinicals. We were not treated like criminals by any means, and the process was hardly intrusive. Also, it wasn't NEARLY as expensive as what it is in the OP's case. The process shouldn't be traumatic for anyone, so cities and counties that treat all individuals who need to be fingerprinted like criminals should probably modify their system.
     
  21. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    My biggest problem is that we are talking about parents of children in the class coming to school to participate in an activity with their own children. I actually think that the school is on very thin ice restricting parents from doing that unless they are registered sex offenders - in which case it would actually be a criminal offense for them to even come near the school and unlikely they would even be allowed to see their own children unsupervised.

    I'm thinking about telling parents who want to come to just meet us on the corner off of school property. I can't in any way stop them from doing that. The problem is if I do that, I need to decide if I want to ask permission first or beg forgiveness later.

    I understand doing the background checks for volunteers who don't have children at the school. I understand doing them for parents who want to work one-on-one with students or go on overnight trips.

    Our board policy clearly states that the parents do not need to be fingerprinted to go on a field trip. It also has very clear language regarding parents right see their kids at school and do things like observe their child's class. I spent a lot of time reading our board policy last night to see where this all comes from. I could not find any place that gave any indication.

    The other thing is that the security at our school is unbelievably lax. Like most California schools, our school is not a "building" but rather a collection of classrooms surrounded by a fence. Most of the gates are left open all the time. Anyone can walk on or off the school pretty much at will without going through the office. In the mornings, there are scores of adults (who I always hope are parents) milling around waiting for their kids to go in the classroom.
     
  22. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    As risky as it seems, I think this may be your best bet. Did the district not give a window of time before the new rule has to be implemented? It's surprising that the new rule became effective so soon. It would have made much more sense to give parents and teachers ample time to adjust to the new policy.

    I don't personally agree with the policy, by the way. I think some of the previous responses that were pro-fingerprinting were related to TEACHERS being fingerprinted, not parents. A few of us got a little off-topic.
     
  23. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    My immediate response would be to cancel the field trip if that rule were to be enforced. The children's safety comes first and if you are not allowed help to walk them, I would stay at school.
     
  24. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I'd casually ask someone in authority, strictly with a "my friend may have a field trip in the future" approach.
     
  25. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Weird.

    When I observed last fall, I didn't have to get fingerprinted or have a background check.

    And I would help the students and once I gave them problems to work on while the teacher was out of the room.
     
  26. gigi

    gigi Groupie

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    It is the policy at my school that volunteers be fingerprinted, however, the district reimburses for this. I wouldn't want to walk my students down a busy street with out help either. Will you cancel Sarge?
     
  27. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    It would be prudent to know why she was reported and what the final determination was after CPS conducted their investigation. I don't know if the mother would represent a danger or not, but if a report of neglect or abuse has been filed, then it the school would be negligent to not check into that situation further.

    Also, I stated the person could be a danger to the children, not that she arbitrarily was. Knowing a report had been filed should prompt further investigation by the school district into the situation.

    Sarge - I understand your POV completely and don't totally disagree with it. I understand these are parents of kids in the classroom, however, many parents have also been in trouble for various things that should warrant discretion regarding them being around kids other than their own.

    One of my high school classmates is a perfect example. He was the Student Council President our Senior Year and a pillar in his local community. He was extremely active in the school as soon as his kids were old enough to attend. He helped organize fundraisers, operated the concession stand during games, provided food and drinks for the concession stand from the convenience store he owned and was a very well-respected member in the community, school and his church.

    Turns out, he was also a sex offender and took "liberties" with his daughters friends when they came to her house for slumber parties.

    Just because they are a parent with a child in the class and can put on a great front doesn't mean they are necessarily safe. Now, it's true that fingerprinting would NOT have thrown up any red flags, because the man never had a criminal record until AFTER he was caught, tried and convicted of his offenses. By that time, the damage had been done.

    Even if the parent comes to visit THEIR child in the classroom, they will be around other kids as well. So I think it behooves the school to take as many precautions as necessary.

    I completely agree the cost will likely discourage many parents that would make wonderful volunteers and it IS a shame that happens, but just one mistake could cause even greater damage to the kids and the school system. I also agree it is entirely too dangerous for you to supervise 20 first graders on a busy highway by yourself. I like the suggestion of using established subs to help, but that means the school would have to pay for the help and, frankly, it would probably be cheaper for the district to pay for the screening tests instead.
     
  28. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    All of our volunteers must attend volunteer & confidentiality training and pass a background check. We get a list of the volunteers who have had training, and it indicates if they have passed the background check or not.

    Of course, a background check is a good idea, but it won't catch everything. We had a person volunteer to work with one of our classes. He spent a lot of time at our school, and we appreciated the help. He was with us for several years, and he worked with a lot of the "at-risk" kids. Then he was arrested for taking nude photos of boys. He admitted that he volunteered in places where he could have access to young boys. I was sick when I found out. We had a student kill himself last year, and he often worked with that volunteer. So help me if I ever find out that he did something to that child, I'll be the one not passing my background check . . .
     
  29. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    We have a similar policy - except the district shoulders all but 20$ of the cost. I would probably have been against this policy, but I work in a school where gangs and drugs are a serious problem. It's important to me that two parent volunteers don't get into it over some kind of difference of affiliation. You'd never guess to look at our school or drive through the neighborhood that this is a problem, but we've had lock downs because of gang issues between parents picking up kids after school.

    It's sad that we can't trust people, but in my community, 20 years ago, there weren't gang problems like this. Unfortunately, things have changed for the worst and not liking it doesn't make it different.

    I like that our district shoulders part of the cost, though, I'm pleased that we don't have to worry about a fight breaking out on a class trip.
     
  30. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Our parents need to have a background check...which explains why we don't have parent volunteers :whistle:
     
  31. David Brown

    David Brown Rookie

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    It's reasonable for a police check or background check to happen but I don't know if a finger print is really that necessary. It depends how well the parent is known to the school I suppose.
     
  32. teacherheath

    teacherheath Companion

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    We have some kind of a system where the office people can swipe a volunteer's driver's license. I'm not sure which offenses come up, but do know that it will alert them if it's a sex offender.
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Let me add to mm's response that in cases of divorce it's not at all unheard of for CPS to be called without warrant - this happens to both fathers and mothers.
     
  34. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Am I the only one hear who is astonished? Parent volunteers having to be fingerprinted and a background check? I am so naive. So is my district.

    The PTA parents need to be checked out.
    The parent volunteers who come in during Book Fair Week need to be checked.
    The parents who help at the Fall Festival need to be checked.
    What about my student teacher?
    Field trip chaperones...????

    I am astonished.
     
  35. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Its all about LITIGATION. Someone is always waiting to
    MAKE a buck.
     
  36. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Yes. My ex did that to me. The investigator came to my house and I had to answer his questions. He also interviewed my parents. After the interviews, he concluded the report she filed was false and she was forced to retract. I understand this issue very well.

    I still feel the school district would be prudent to check into such reports if they are aware of them. If the charge was unwarranted, the CPS investigation will reflect that.
     
  37. Miss W

    Miss W Phenom

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    All of our college students that observe, teach, or student teach must get a background check. The college makes all education majors do this in their Intro to Education class their freshman year.
     
  38. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    We have DL scanners in every school. Parents or volunteers have to have their ID scanned before going out of the office. If something comes up, then that person won't be able to do anything in the school.
     
  39. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    In the UK the rule is (I think) that a volunteer can be in school up to 3 times in a term without a check as long as they are not left alone with the kids. Volunteers can go on trips under the same rule. However if ther volunteering becomes regulsr then they have to have a check (called a CRB in the UK). However CRB's for volunteers are free. Hartlepool my have better info on this.

    When I visit Chicago I frequently try my hand teaching American kids. Will this mean that I shall have to have a check in future?
     
  40. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    I have to add that our Government made checks for parents who host students on exchange visits to have checks! needless to say that the number of exchange visits has dropped dramatically. However our Government does not insist (indeed it can't) that foreign families hosting our kids are checked!
     
  41. bros

    bros Phenom

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    I've never had to get a background check.

    Although I will have to get a TB test before I do 90 hours of observation next fall.
     

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