• Food for Thought – Who Can (or Should) Volunteer?

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    August 26th, 2010Musings

    Have you heard about the mother in Rhode Island who has been banned from volunteering at her daughter’s elementary school because she has two prior drug-related felony convictions (which occurred before her daughter was born)? The mom says she’s been clean for six years, and pointed out that she volunteered at her daughter’s preschool, but the public school has said “no.”

    Do parents in your child’s district undergo criminal background checks before they are cleared to help out in the school &/or chaperone field trips?

    My son’s school checks for everything before a parent may work as a volunteer, and there are different levels of clearance one can be given. I know of at least four levels: (1) work at the school but with no student contact, (2) work at the school with student contact (i.e., in the classroom), (3) chaperone on field trips, which often involves driving kids in one’s private car to and from the event, and (4) chaperoning on overnight field trips (something that only the 5th graders at my son’s school ever have). I know that even a single speeding ticket knocks a person out of the field trip volunteer level, so I’d imagine our district would also frown upon any felony convictions, regardless of how long ago they occurred.

    I’m cleared for all levels of volunteering, and, frankly, take comfort in knowing of the rigorous checks my son’s school subjects us all to before allowing contact with the students.

    I’m of two minds about the felony conviction. I think that any type of violent felony conviction – regardless of how long ago it occurred – should keep someone out, period. However, drug-related convictions (crimes that really affect the user more than anyone else) ¬†wouldn’t bother me in the classroom, since that’s a controlled environment.

    I would not want a felon of any sort, however, driving my son around or chaperoning overnight trips. Once and addict, always an addict, recovering or not, so this is a deal-breaker for me.

    What do you think?

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