Should background checks be done for school volunteers?
At a New Hanover County PTA meeting this week, some said background checks shouldn’t just end with principals and teachers. They said it might be a good idea to check up on school volunteers, and chaperones as well.
Bill Garmon volunteers at his daughter’s school in New Hanover County every chance he gets. He said he has never been asked for a background check. “It wouldn’t bother me a bit. It shouldn’t bother anyone who volunteers with the school system. If you have something in the past that you don’t want to have come out of the closet so to speak, it makes you wonder if that person should be volunteering to begin with.”
Before having direct contact with a child, every school employee in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties all undergo a background check.
“We know that the adults that interact with them have to be checked just to make sure they are not in a dangerous situation,” said John Welmers, the NHC Assistant Superintendent.
Officials in Pender and Brunswick counties said volunteers and chaperones are also required to have criminal checks.
This is not the case in New Hanover County. John Welmers said it’s not necessary. “As long as there is a teacher present with the students and visitor then we feel like we are in good shape.”
Checking into someone’s past does not come cheap. Each school district sets aside thousands of dollars for criminal background checks.
A county check costs just a few dollars, but a nation-wide criminal check can run into the hundreds.
More than one hundred people volunteer at New Hanover County schools each year. With numbers like that, parents like Bill Garmon still think the county should take the extra precaution. “I think that is still needed, just for the safety for our children. Not that I think a volunteer would do anything, but in this day and age the question is still on the edge of your mind.”
New Hanover County Assistant Superintendent John Welmers said it is a touchy issue to check every parent that wants to visit their student. It can become a privacy issue and a slippery slope.
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