Grandma Not Safe Enough to Participate in Grandson’s “Read Aloud” Day

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Well, I sure feel safer now! This snapshot of American hysteria comes to us Lisa Lightner, a special education advocate, lobbyist and blogger who can be found at ADayInOurShoes.com.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I have my child abuse/background clearances to volunteer at my son’s school (1st grade). Next Friday I am signed up to be the Mystery Reader–to visit the class and read a book. I specifically chose that date with the intent of having my mother-in-law go with me, because she is in town visiting from Arizona.
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Our school used to have a policy that even if you do not have your clearances, you could go in one time to a school and do something–provided you showed ID, were never left alone with kids and were accompanied by another adult who did have clearances. She would have fit all that criteria.
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Well, I emailed the teacher to iron out the details, and our school district has done away with this policy. Either you have clearances–or you don’t come into the school. Period. Not only was my MIL denied access, another classmate of my son–his own father is not permitted to come in with Mom when it’s her turn to be Mystery Reader.
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Dads and grandmothers….too much risk!
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Ths is classic American overkill. In response to the Sandusky scandal, Pennsylvania made draconian screening rules — ignoring the fact that Sandusky himself would have passed every background check. It is was the classic, “Do something!” mentality that passes legislation that does indeed DO something…it just doesn’t make kids any safer and has all these unintended consequences.
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Lisa did some reading of the fine print and wrote me back that: “It appears that I could probably get her in as a visitor. So, if she doesn’t read a book as Mystery Reader–no clearances needed! But, if she wanted to do a very grandmotherly thing of reading a book to a bunch of 6 year olds…can’t do that without clearances.”

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Out you go, you terrifying, unbackground-checked school visitor!

Out you go, you terrifying, unbackground-checked school visitor!

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68 Responses to Grandma Not Safe Enough to Participate in Grandson’s “Read Aloud” Day

  1. Liz K December 16, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    I am a parent & substitute teacher in PA. The situation has become Kafka-esque. I was asked to submit new clearances for volunteering, even though I have active clearances to work as a substitute. I was originally told they were not acceptable because they were 14 months old. I decided to push back and spent a month arguing with various officials and finally got someone to acknowledge that I am actually the same person when I volunteer & sub, and if I pose no threat as a sub, then it only stands to reason that I would pose no threat as a volunteer.

  2. common sense December 16, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    stop the world I want to get off. I would suggest[but you will never get other parents to agree] that all parents get together and stop volunteering and helping all together. no helping in classrooms, no going on field trips, no helping with parties or other activities. get the kids to school with lunches in their backpacks and then get them home any way you want. don’t help with afterschool or sports .let’s see how they feel then. unless you are being investigated for a crime or in jail there is no reason for all these checks. just how often do kids get abused or molested in the open in broad daylight in front of the whole class?
    off subject, when my kids were in the local k-4, I used to make knit hats for their classes. having empty nest and time this year, I tried to do the same for the kindergarten class this year. guess what? the school would not accept the hats because I did not have a background check and the hats weren’t “packaged with labels
    ‘. I kid you not. so the rescue mission got a nice surprise this year.

  3. lollipoplover December 16, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Sadly, they are shooting themselves in the foot with these outrageous, non-community oriented clearances that benefit no one. Sandusky would have passed them.

    They will stop getting parent volunteers. I’ve already volunteered for 10 years at our elementary school and even without these clearances, there are not many parents with flexible schedules to do what many of these schools need to operate. Teachers are not getting paid until after January 2016 in the Philadelphia School District as Pennsylvania still has no budget approved and no money for the schools who rely on state funding. But as a result of the Penn State scandal, we must fund administrative costs of background clearances (they are *free* this year) for basic volunteering, reading books to kids and filling in the gaps where there is no money available for schools to operate. Makes perfect sense.

  4. trishwah December 16, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    Actually, it’s worse than you think. Originally, parents had to PAY to get their clearances. This has since been reversed and there is reimbursement (or something), but originally, if you couldn’t afford the $100 or whatever to get cleared, you couldn’t volunteer. Talk about poor-shaming.

    There is also a new rule in PA that teachers not only have to get the standard FBI clearance/fingerprinting, but they have to get a letter from anywhere they have ever worked with children, that says that there were no complaints about the teacher. This caused a huge problem for my husband when he was hired in August for a position this year. It was weeks before he could be alone with students in his classroom (fortunately, he is a choir director with an accompanist, so when the accompanist was there, he usually wasn’t alone with the students). Schools in other states don’t have this rule so there’s not a good process in place for providing this. They have to go dig through old personnel files, paper, in some cases, then get someone to write a letter. Same with anywhere else a teacher might have worked with children (church, community arts organizations, etc.). And for what? To dig up accused but not guilty situations? How is that fair?

  5. Gina December 16, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    This is exactly the kind of thing I am trying to fight in our district. In fact I just checked in to volunteer at the school and guess what…Once again, I’m still not a sex offender! Yep, they run us through the registry every time. I would love to band together to make a real change but I just don’t see it happening…so many people hear the word “safe” and all rational thought goes out the window…

  6. ChicagoDad December 16, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    That’s it. This modern world is too weird. I’m going back in time to 1977. Star Wars is on the big screen, facial hair is “in” again, people love to drive big gas-guzzlers…it won’t be too much of a stretch.

    I’m going to grow big side burns, wear bell bottoms and a powder blue jacket with a wide lapel. When someone tells me I can’t stop by my kid’s class because I don’t have a background check, I’m going to laugh, say “Far out, baby!” and chuckle as I keep on walking. When I get arrested, I’ll show them my laminated paper drivers license and ask for a pay-phone to call my wife for bail money–then I’ll act confused when I have to push buttons or dial more than 5 numbers. On the other hand….maybe this is a bad idea. Sigh…

  7. Maria Hasankolli December 16, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    These are all very sad and very true statements. My personal experience; I’ve been dealing with the public school systems for 18 yrs as my oldest turned 22 yesterday. The school officials know me by face and name; however, when trying to enter the schools lately they respond with, “hi Maria, can we see your I.d. please?” We can no longer venture into the classrooms, walk or children to their lockers, or volunteer without a squeaky clean background check.
    Our freedoms are changing steadily and consistently. Why not just hand our children over at birth and save the terrible. (I probably shouldn’t say that out loud. I might give “them” ideas).

  8. Maria Hasankolli December 16, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    (Correction) And save the “trouble”

  9. Backroads December 16, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    My school is still rational. Hooray!

  10. MichaelF December 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    More security theater, please focus attention stage right!

    I do 2 or 3 of these a year now between school, scouting, and sports and each time I pass! Funny how you can’t get one and reuse it, but everyone needs their own paperwork to cover their own a’s just in case…

    I agree with common sense, if we stop volunteering they might get the message, but until the fear goes away not much will change.

  11. lollipoplover December 16, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    I saw this not too long ago in Pennsylvania where they offer seniors a tax break on property taxes in exchange for volunteer hours at local schools.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20151129_Senior_volunteers_get_tax_breaks_and_enjoyment.html

    What a great idea. Some schools welcome grandmothers. Others treat them as criminals until they produce the proper paperwork.

  12. Warren December 16, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    ChicagoDad

    I’ll bail you out. But we’ll need an opener for the beer. No twist tops.

    Unless there is a push back. Back to reality, it is going to get worse. You will see such increased security at schools that your kids will be marching lockstep down halls with numerous cameras, patrol dogs and numerous armed officers.

    We wonder why we hear teachers talking about buying class supplies out of their own pockets. I wonder how much metal detectors, cameras, software, background checks and officer salaries are costing the education budget.

  13. Shannon December 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    Just wait until the day you need to be screened before attending your child’s class play, or baseball game, or walking past the playground during recess.

  14. John December 16, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    What this all boils down to is LAWYERS. The pay outs in these sexual abuse scandals, in MY opinion, are getting waaaaaay out of hand to the point where there is a high possibility of reverse abuse. People will exaggerate claims of child sexual abuse just to make themselves millionaires. Victim 9 in the Penn State scandal could be an example of this. There is even a picture that he posted of himself with a big cherub smile laying on a hotel bed with hundred dollar bills all around him. Supposedly he also bragged that he bought his mom a Porsche. But according to the testimony of people who know him, he’s always been a lying sleazebag so who knows whether or not he was a true victim of Jerry Sandusky? Apparently the jury ruled that he was.

    But what I’m getting at here is that institutions don’t want to risk exposing themselves to these multi-million dollar sexual abuse lawsuits. Nowadays in America, even frivolous and false claims of sexual abuse could result in a million dollar lawsuit. Supposedly in the Duggar case other people came forward saying that Duggar touched them sexually when they were teenagers. So the question is, why did they wait until now, years later and after it came out that he molested his younger sisters? It seems pretty fishy to most people. BUT according to one Lawyer I heard on a talk show, a person can make the claim that they were so traumatized by having their private parts touched when they were children that they repressed it from their mind and it didn’t come out until hearing what Duggar did to his sisters on the news.

    That’s right folks, this is how easy it is to get sued for sexually abusing a child in America today. You’re guilty until proven innocent and institutions are so afraid of being bankrupt by frivolous and even false accusations that they over react.

  15. Nadine December 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    My grandma would indeed be dangerous. She is almost 94 (boxingday) and not very good on her feet. She might break something.

    The idea that a trusted family member could be denied access by the school is crazy. Bonkers, Nuts, and very very upsetting in emergency situations when that comfort can be needed. My parents werent always in the position at work to come to school (like when I was bleeding from a headwound, but not dying). Why is it that the idea of family is kept so damn small when the responcibilities really are to much for one or two to cope with in certainncircujstances.

    My relationship with my grandma is very close and very important to me. Always been. In lots of ways she is my most important female influence and she kept me sane through the most turbulent times. Turnes out There is a good probability I have done the same for her.

    http://www.alzheimers.net/8-1-14-babysitting-grandkids-alzheimers

  16. JSMacF December 16, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    Kind of off-topic but in terms of a world gone crazy – here’s a story. I work in public school. I put up a sign reading “Peace on Earth Goodwill to All.” A secular, seasonal sentiment of peace and love. Was told said sign could be deemed offensive and instructed to remove. Yup. That happened.

  17. Holly December 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    I am a school bus driver, but to go to my son’s class I have to do the volunteer background check. What’s worse, last year I drove his class for their field trip and in order to also chaperone I had to do the background check. Trusted to drive 60 kids but not to chaperone 4. Makes sense right?

  18. Dee December 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    Sigh. I think grandmas are still okay at our school. At least they don’t ask for background checks for grandparent’s day…yet. And as someone else pointed out, they will end up shooting themselves in the foot as they get fewer and fewer volunteers.

    Our school has had a background check policy for a volunteers for a few years. I have managed to avoid it! I work full time, so volunteering is, admittedly, very limited to the school fair and one in-class event. I panicked one year because I tried to get a background check but the police dept.’s computers were down and they let me slide. The cost is only $5, but it’s in a bad part of town with terrible parking. You end up paying more to park than for the background check. I’ve yet to actually have it get done!

    If schools want to do this and not lose volunteers, they ought to make it easy to get the check – have a police administrator set up a remote or something. It’s still ridiculous, but that might have to happen if parents stop volunteering.

  19. Warren December 16, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    Dee,
    No they don’t need to make it easier. They need to stop requiring background checks.

  20. lollipoplover December 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    My daughter has several more years of elementary school but I will NOT be completing the mandatory background check for next year even though I’ve happily volunteered at this lovely school for a decade. They just lost one great volunteer. I usually go 1-2x a month mostly because I’m asked to help out as there are never enough volunteers. I refuse to submit to a clearance just to walk through my own community school! I’d sooner line the cat’s litter box with these forms than hand over my personal data to the state just for unpaid volunteering.

  21. ChicagoDad December 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Warren, I was taught that adults should always carry cash, a pocket knife and a “church key”! 🙂

    Why, in this day and age, do we run schools on a late 19th century model? Big institutions, centralized management, expensive buildings, increasingly dehumanizing? Whose great idea is this? Even most alternative models (charters, magnets, parochials, etc) focus around big buildings with hundreds of students “managed” from a central office. When you have even a small group of troubled individuals (students, faculty or staff) then the culture of the whole institution and every student can suffer. We need new ideas.

    Why not decentralize? Have smaller groups, dispersed throughout the community, meeting in flex spaces and connected to resources and each other through technology? It becomes easier to adjust group dynamics, there is no central “target” for the improbable attacks, instruction can vary to meet the needs of students instead of the needs of the district, and you don’t need the behemoth campuses that drain the public coffers as student populations change. Or maybe there’s a better approach.

  22. Another Katie December 16, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    Our older daughter is a Daisy Girl Scout. In order to even be present in the meeting room or accompany my own daughter to a troop activity in a public place, I’m supposed to go through the process of becoming an approved volunteer. This requires paying the adult membership fee ($15), troop dues (another $25), having a background check performed, and filling out an application that includes personal references who are asked to rate my personality and qualities on a numeric scale. Then once the council approves me as a volunteer, I have to take an online course and in-person training.

    All of that in order to go with the troop on a field trip, or to hand out snacks and help with crafts during meetings – in a public place with my own child and other kids present and at least two other (approved!) adult volunteers present.

  23. Another Katie December 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    The public elementary school that our oldest attends does not require background checks for volunteers. Any adult entering the building during school hours has to show ID and sign in/get a visitor badge, but that’s it. In order to pick up a student early or administer medication, the adult must be the student’s parent or otherwise listed on the registration form, and I think those are entirely reasonable precautions.

    The school handbook states that registered sex offenders are not allowed on school property unless the principal has been informed ahead of time and it is for the purpose of attending a parent-teacher conference only (they cannot go to concerts, special events, etc.). Practically speaking, I don’t know how the school would know, since parents’ IDs are not copied or scanned in any way on entrance.

    At the high schools, adult visitors’ IDs are scanned through a system that checks if they’re on a sex offender registry and denies access but this system is not at the elementary and middle schools. That seems backwards to me; if I thought the registry was reasonable, younger children would logically need more protection. But I guess the school board has some sort of convoluted logic behind their reasoning…

  24. Warren December 16, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    ChicagoDad,

    “Warren, I was taught that adults should always carry cash, a pocket knife and a “church key”! ”

    I still do. But back in the 70’s we didn’t need a church key. Most american made cars came with steel bumpers, and most of them had a sweet spot pretty much designed to pop a cap. That was back when popping a cap meant opening a beer.

    And you’re right, with tech students could pretty much attend class anywhere. Problem is that school construction has probably become as big an industry as their is. Any business tied to government funding is difficult to defeat or downsize.

  25. Catherine Caldwell-Harris December 16, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    I appreciate reading this blog to learn about what other parents are facing. Briefly, to share, my kids’ school does require the background check for volunteers, but they have an easy-going visitor policy. You can sign in and they do not even require ID (I have never been asked for one, maybe the staff person knows me so they let it slide?).

  26. ChicagoDad December 16, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    “Most american made cars came with steel bumpers, and most of them had a sweet spot pretty much designed to pop a cap.”

    I learned something new today! I’m going to need a demonstration, though.

  27. Catherine Caldwell-Harris December 16, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    i’ve been reading thru all the comments about parents being out-raged by the tedious background check requirements.

    But let’s not punish schools by not volunteering. When I brought in my background paperwork and my TB test results, the coordinator took it and looked me in the eye and said in a sincere tone, “Thank you so much for taking the time to do all this.”

    The staff appreciates us volunteers.

    Another story: The first weeks of kindergarten, after finally getting my son, quite late, into his class (late because he didn’t want to go to school, lots of acting out), I leaned against an empty hallway and silently cried over the difficulty of childrearing. An administrator saw me without any badge and started talking sharply at me, coming up to accost me — and some other staff person intervened, she had seen me earlier with my difficult son, calling off the administrator, and let me get out of the building.

    Let’s all work together.

  28. Jeff_Birt December 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    What about evidence? Proof? Studies that show all this hysterical background checking actually does any good? Funny how the folks who propose and implement this stuff never try to find out if it actually helps their school, or has ever helped any school. They are more concerned with showing that they made an effort to do something and all the CYA that brings.

  29. Maggie December 16, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    Catherine, I disagree.

    You may be okay with a background check and a TB test. But what about a urine test and a full drug analysis? Would you also consider screening by a psychologist prior to entering any public school or being around children? Would you submit to regular home inspections?

    Once you hand over your rights to your person, it’s easy for them to continue to ask for more, all in the guise of “safety”. We live in a country where the rule of law says “Innocent until proven guilty”. Once we allow screening for every minor thing, such as volunteering, you’ve now said “I’m guilty until I prove my innocence.”

    Not to mention, what does it say to the children? Every adult, including mom, dad, and grandma, cannot be trusted and is a potential danger to others. That’s not how I want to raise my kids.

  30. James Pollock December 16, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    “Why, in this day and age, do we run schools on a late 19th century model?”
    The short answer is that we don’t… in the late 19th century model, most children do not attend high school.
    The answer to your real question (why do we do it the way we do), it’s generally cheaper that way.

    “Why not decentralize?”
    The University of Phoenix uses this model.

    “connected to resources and each other through technology?”
    You can serve some students this way… the ones who have technology and good telecommunication links. Public schools have to provide services to all. Not everybody has a computer in the household, a high-speed data connection, or even reliable mobile phone service..

  31. James Pollock December 16, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    “Once you hand over your rights to your person, it’s easy for them to continue to ask for more, all in the guise of “safety”. We live in a country where the rule of law says “Innocent until proven guilty”. Once we allow screening for every minor thing, such as volunteering, you’ve now said “I’m guilty until I prove my innocence.” ”

    That ship has sailed. Or more relevantly, that airplane has departed the terminal.

  32. Donna December 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

    My child’s school started background checks for the first time this year. I refuse to do one so I am no longer allowed to volunteer during the school day. I didn’t volunteer much before so no loss. Personally, I find the whole regular school volunteer thing odd anyway. I can’t remember a single parent volunteer in school when I was a child. Maybe working concessions at high school football games, but that was it. It makes me wonder if schools really want these volunteers or have just found ways to occupy their time because they insist on being there.

    A couple times a year, our school has big events (book fair, 2nd and 3rd grade track meet, field day) where there is a legitimate need for large numbers of volunteers. Since mass emails go out to all parents, I wonder if they will strictly adhere to their background check for these events. The track meet and field day are months away, but nothing was mentioned about needing a background check in the emails sent for the book fair. I thought about volunteering to see if they would actually check, but I was too busy with work.

  33. BL December 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    “That ship has sailed. Or more relevantly, that airplane has departed the terminal.”

    Ships can be sunk, and airplanes can be shot out of the sky.

  34. common sense December 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    Catherine..ok the staff appreciates the volunteers. great. why not make it easier to volunteer then? or maybe the higher ups don’t want the volunteers, so they add more layers of “security”? adding more and more hoops to jump through doesn’t do anything, it just pisses people off. someone here said of instead of innocent til proven guilty it is now guilty til you are proven innocent. I’m really glad for your children that you have the time and money to get all the checks. most working parents don’t. if people stopped volunteering altogether the schools would either have to hire more [state trained and approved aides] or do without. maybe then they would reconsider the homeland security measures they have put in place to keep the parents of the children from interacting with them for a good portion of their waking hours. or if your paranoid, maybe that’s the point.

  35. Danielle December 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Same exact thing happened to me. My MIL was visiting from France and I thought the librarian was going to have a cow when I tried to bring her in. Access denied. She had to sit in the lobby outside the principal’s office and wait while I read to my son’s kinder class in the library. What did they think would happen? My MIL would try to abduct a kid in front of a teacher, librarian and aid? Ridiculous.

  36. Donald December 16, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    This problem is partially caused by the fear hysteria. However there is another cause that I would like to point out. I don’t think this second cause is trivial because it has HUGH implications in other areas.

    To explain this other cause I’ll use an analogy.

    Let’s say that I’m a plumber that has the power to create work. I can barge into your house, tear out your old pipes, and replace them with new ones. I don’t need your permission but you still have to pay my bill. Although there is nothing wrong with the old pipes, I can tell you that the new ones will have a smaller chance of having a leak simply because they are newer.

    Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. We can argue that I’m providing a solution without a problem. That’s debatable. However while we debate this it takes away the focus from the real problem.

    The point that I’m trying to make is that I can force my business onto you just because I want the work.

    The safety consultants behind the bureaucrat are not plumbers. They don’t replace pipes. However they can force us to be ‘safer’ because they can. Whether the old safety policy is adequate or not is irrelevant. They want work and have the power to force their services onto you.

  37. Jenny Islander December 16, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    @JS MacF: It’s a Bible quote, from the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds. It’s just quoted so often that people often have no idea where it’s actually from. Sorry.

  38. Art December 16, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    @Donald,

    You hit the nail on the head. There’s millions in the “safety” game, and it’s not to end anytime soon. That’s one of the principal drivers about what’s going on., along with lawyers.

  39. Donna December 16, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    To take off on what Donald says …Who says schools want to encourage volunteers?

    I have absolutely no doubt that my school appreciates the volunteers that it solicits to take care of needs that it identifies. They are always extremely appreciative when I respond to an email/note asking for volunteers.

    However, I’m not sure why my school should appreciate volunteers who self-solicit. I know that I would greatly appreciate a law student that I solicited because I had already identified a need for an intern. I am far less likely to appreciate a law student who simply shows up on my doorstep whenever she feels like it and asks to be put to work. That requires additional work for me.

  40. James Pollock December 16, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    “Ships can be sunk, and airplanes can be shot out of the sky.”

    Neither of which helps you get on them.

  41. James Pollock December 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    “I can’t remember a single parent volunteer in school when I was a child.”

    We had them. They were called “Room mothers” (which should give you an idea of how long ago it was.)

  42. Gina December 16, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    I agree with the commenter common sense that many higher ups do not want parent volunteers. All my children’s teachers have been happy to have me help them, but I do not believe that is the same for the administration, both at the school and in the district office. More and more we are moving toward a model of “drop the kids off at the fence line and the school will take it from here.” The schools want to take on the entire responsibility of educating the students. Parental input is irrelevant and unwanted. If schools were truly concerned about student success, they would welcome parents since the biggest influence on how well children do in school is the family they come from.

  43. hineata December 16, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

    @Catherine – why would anyone need TB checks to volunteer? Are you living in an area with a large immigrant or native population? That just seems really weird…..and I was one who had my younger two vaccinated for TB, because my mother-in-law comes from an area where it is still an issue. But just to volunteer for school? What next…AIDs screening, bird flu temp measurers (those are really cool, like a metal detector in an airport, but serious overkill for a school)?

  44. pentamom December 16, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Lollipop, that article notwithstanding, those seniors will have to pass the background checks. It’s state law for absolutely anybody working with kids on any organized basis.

    So, our church of about 50 people, where we’re all friends with each other, have each other’s kids for sleepovers and visits regularly, babysit for each other, and the “nursery” is an open area of the church basement where anyone can walk in anytime, has to have all of us who intend to work in the nursery (watch 0-3 year olds for about 20 minutes during the sermon each week, with at least one other adult or older teenager always present, and usually more) go through the full background check process.

    It’s nonsense.

  45. derfel cadarn December 16, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    There is something very wrong in this nation , it is no longer the land of the free nor the home of the brave.

  46. Steve December 16, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    ChicagoDad said:

    “Why, in this day and age, do we run schools on a late 19th century model? Big institutions, centralized management, expensive buildings, increasingly dehumanizing?” …Why not decentralize? Have smaller groups, dispersed throughout the community, meeting in flex spaces and connected to resources and each other through technology?”

    I agree with you. That is how it should be… but it’s “DIFFERENT.” That’s the real issue..

    People don’t like to change their habits. Habit’s are familiar. (Oh, I know you could give examples of people embracing occasional change, but in general people just don’t like it.)

    Have you ever tried to get somebody to do something a different way? Have you ever tried to get somebody to eat a food they’ve never eaten? It’s really amazing that people won’t do things that would make life better for them simply because it’s different – and it was their idea first.

    My point is that if you can’t get people to change in very simple ways, imagine how hard it would be to decentralize a school system. Now, I’m not saying you couldn’t “start” small private schools and succeed. I’m just saying it’s hard to CHANGE an established “Structure.”

    I’ll bet loads of people on this blog could list all sorts of simple things they can’t get others to do.

  47. Warren December 16, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

    Steve,
    You are spot on about not getting others to change. Look how impossible it is to get James to shut up.

  48. Marianne Lappin December 16, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    I totally agree that anyone volunteering at schools and working direct with the students should pass a background check, but the idea that a family member can no longer even visit is insane. I also know it is not cheap to run background checks and they should be used judiciously.

  49. Meghan December 16, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Passing a criminal record check does not guarantee that one is safe to be around kids; having a record does not necessarily mean that one is dangerous. Once again it’s an example of how the agency would rather have strict rules than rely on anyone’s ability to actually make decisions and think critically; it absolves them of any responsibility for such.

  50. Warren December 17, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    Marianne Lappin

    Do you have any proof that background checks are effective security measures? If so please share them with the class.

  51. Ciara Melinn December 17, 2015 at 4:59 am #

    The level of outside influence into normal parental and/or family life in the US is simply astounding to me (in Ireland); I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for people to try to raise their kids outside of the prevailing ‘fear everything’ dogma. Kudos to everyone who is fighting back against this system!

  52. David (Dhewco) December 17, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    When I was in grades 7-11, I intended to become an early education teacher (I loved social studies and geography and wanted to show that to young people before they become too jaded by peers and TV to follow suit). I went into the army and later computer repair instead…insurance school, and other stuff.

    Anyway, my point is that I’m a hugger and a toucher. I mean that if I see a kid with a problem I want to hug it out or at least put an arm around their shoulder. If I follow this blog well enough, that’s not allowed anymore. It’s instinctual for me and I’m sure I’d do it without thinking. As a single male, I’d probably get reprimanded or something.

    More on topic, if I had a kid, I’d probably willing to go through a check at the beginning of a school year (It’s relatively cheap in my rural county.) but requiring more than that would put me off.

  53. lollipoplover December 17, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    “It makes me wonder if schools really want these volunteers or have just found ways to occupy their time because they insist on being there.”

    I think among parent volunteers there’s a wide range of what schools and parents expect out of volunteering. One of the things I love about our school is how many school sponsored options we have like dances, sports nights, clubs, and free educational activities for these kids after school and week nights. There’s something for every family to be involved and our school encourages all to help out in any way, big or small and stresses the importance of community and “You get what you give” mentality. It’s a wonderful school and my kids are genuinely excited to go there.

    Some parent volunteers treat it like a job and are extremely involved in the school. Not my cup of tea, but God bless these people and their commitment. I don’t particularly enjoy getting cornered by them at parties but there are worse things in life than people who over-volunteer. Personally, I ask my kids what they want me to be involved with and try to mesh it with my work schedule. As they get older, they don’t ask as much and the middleschoolers would be horrified if I chaperoned a dance or field trip. I appreciate the effort the teachers and PTA make to make learning fun and create a community school with running clubs and reading to the dogs clubs, and asking a few moms to help out with gingerbread house math activities.

    Creating road blocks to volunteers with background checks will keep more good people out of our schools than bad. Millions of dollars spent on *free* background checks will ultimately be payed by taxpayers who already spend too much on property and school taxes and should not be restricted from accessing their public schools and assumed dangerous without paperwork. Spend the money on educational programs in the community that address where children have the HIGHEST likelihood of experiencing abuse: IN THEIR OWN HOMES. The danger to over 80% of children is not a family grandmother reading a book in a school, it’s the person walking through their front door. Teach and educate children to resist and report abuse and where and how they might experience it. These millions of dollars paid to background check companies could be put to such better use with educational programs.

  54. CrazyCatLady December 17, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    Danielle, what a sad waste of good learning opportunity when your MIL visited! Learning about people from other countries and cultures is always in the learning goals for elementary kids…and that school blew it.

  55. Roberta December 17, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    When my youngest was in kindergarten, his older brother, age 13, was homeschooling. I submitted to the background check so that I could volunteer to assist the kindergarten class in the library once a week. I would bring the 13 year old along to shelve books while I helped kids pick out the books they wanted to read. After a couple of weeks, however, the school administration determined that it would not be “safe” for an unenrolled minor to be on school premises. Their concerns were 1) It would not be possible to complete a CORI check on someone under age 18 – thus he was not technically cleared to volunteer, and 2) Even though he would be with me the whole time, the school might have liability if at any moment I took my eyes off him and he was injured. I quit.

    One of the sad aspects of community that is forgotten here is that *public* school is a service that all of us collaborate to provide to ourselves and eachother. Funding via taxes is one of the ways that we contribute to managing this service, and setting policy through our elected leaders is another. Still, if we want to commit our own labor to enrich the programs which belong to us or to help our children use them, we ought to have access within reasonably defined parameters. If families were able to work more closely with schools, this would increase our capacity to recognize real threats and concerns, without throwing more money at superficial “objective” solutions like security cameras, guards, and standardized testing, that erode the core mission.

  56. sexhysteria December 17, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Whoa – an uncleared, uninvestigated person reading a book to kids? We can’t risk that!

  57. David (Dhewco) December 17, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    Idle thought-Was President Bush cleared to read to kids on 9/11? Did he have to submit fingerprints? I know it’s silly, of course. That’s why it’s an idle thought.

  58. James Pollock December 17, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    “Idle thought-Was President Bush cleared to read to kids on 9/11?”
    Are you suggesting that the same rules that apply to us should also apply to wealthy, famous, and/or powerful people?

  59. Donna December 17, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    “More and more we are moving toward a model of ‘drop the kids off at the fence line and the school will take it from here.'”

    Ummm, moving toward? That was the model from when I was in school in the 1970’s. Actually the model was “get your kids out the door so that they can walk to school/the bus stop and the school will take it from there.” This despite the fact that the vast majority of mothers didn’t work. Parent volunteers were an extreme rarity. I can remember the occasional dance or class trip chaperone in my elementary/middle school years. And mom’s cooked things for class parties – although they did not transport the items or attended. Outside of parent/teacher conferences, school plays and the like the vast majority of parents in my childhood never stepped foot on school grounds. They certainly weren’t hanging around in the classrooms.

    14 years later, my brother’s class did have a room mother when he was in public school for elementary school. That is still just a single volunteer per class and the only requirements were to help with parties and other big events and not just to randomly help out around the classroom.

  60. Donna December 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

    lollipoplover – I don’t doubt that school appreciate volunteers for “events.” I’ve seen no indication that our school’s background check includes those events as there has yet to be an email or note sent home asking for volunteers that has stated “must have a background check on file.” I haven’t been able to volunteer for any of them due to work, so I don’t know what happens as far as the background check.

    However, my school has a sizable number of parents who simply show up to volunteer in their kid’s classrooms during a regular class day. Those seem like they would be annoyances to me. The teacher has to try to find a way to incorporate them into already planned lessons.

  61. lollipoplover December 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    @Donna- Yeah, we don’t have that problem! Most of the parents here work and only the PTA board members are regularly in school, but not in the classrooms. Showing up randomly is inconsiderate. The regular school day routine generally has no parent volunteers, except in kindergarten where they use them for kid writing. They send out sign-up genius for when they plan educational activities (I signed up to do the gingerbread house math as my daughter is super excited about it) for classroom activities. Otherwise, volunteering is mainly for events, parties, and fundraisers.

    We used to be allowed to drop in and have lunch with our kids in the cafeteria (I only did this for birthdays) but some parents took advantage to eat lunch with their kid every day and they put a stop to it. There’s always *that* parent who thinks they are pursuing sainthood by being overinvolved in their child’s life. I feel bad for these teachers who have to put up with these people.

  62. David (Dhewco) December 17, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Of course not, James. It was just an idle thought, is all. Who’d really expect the nobles of House Bush to have the same rules as the rest of us Americans? LOL.

  63. Donna December 17, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    Lollipop lover – I assume that the parents actually arrange it with the teachers first and don’t show up completely out of the blue, but it seems to be parents showing up on the first day of school saying “I am going to volunteer so find something for me to do” rather than some need that teacher wanted filled.

  64. pentamom December 17, 2015 at 10:26 pm #

    Call me crazy, but I’m assuming that the highest possible security clearance in this country implicitly includes being cleared to read to children in a classroom. The President, whoever he is, is already cleared to do anything he darn well pleases (safety and security-wise) by virtue of his office.

  65. James Pollock December 17, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

    “Call me crazy, but I’m assuming that the highest possible security clearance in this country implicitly includes being cleared to read to children in a classroom.”

    You’re crazy.
    Mostly, you’ve confused the roles of “President” and “King”.

    (You’re also assuming that the President holds the highest possible security clearance, and confusing security clearance with background checks. You’re probably right about the first, but definitely wrong about the second.)

  66. JD December 18, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    I’ve been attending school board meetings and this idea didn’t come from the school but from the PA legislature who wrote a mandate that required clearances. I got mine before they were free – around $48 in total for the bunch. 2 were done on line and the fingerprint one well that’s not something you can do at home. My school will run my license through Raptor – a system that checks to see if I’m on Megan’s list – the sex offender list on top of that. But they only do this 2X per year. They put my pass in a folder and reuse it. In Jan, I’ll need to do this again. For all the safety the system provides, it’s not worth the hassle. For those who are on Megan’s list, they cannot get beyond the front office to attend an IEP meeting or observe their child in a classroom – not even if accompanied by someone to monitor their whereabouts at all times. How would you feel knowing that a sex offender – who might have been an 18-year-old who dated a 16-year-old and well…charges got pressed – is not allowed to even be in the school during school hours. With the way my SD’s policy is, they can attend after school events like plays & musical performances. No checks needed for those. Yet there are people who do abuse children who have not had charges pressed against them because their victim is not able to deal with facing this person in a court of law who are able to go anywhere they please – including your child’s classroom.

  67. pentamom December 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    James — you’re not the only one here with a brain. Stop acting like you are, especially since you misread or misinterpret people constantly. I know the difference between a security clearance and a background check. I assume that anyone reading can sort out the difference, too, so I don’t have to spell out precisely what I mean.

    What I also know is that anyone with a very high security clearance has passed the equivalent of a background check. You think you can get a presidential-level security clearance without the kind of background check grandma needs to read The Three Little Pigs being included in it?

    The place where I might have been wrong is to call it the “highest possible.” It might not be. But it’s certainly high enough that any history of child abuse would have popped up long before he ever entered that classroom. Not to mention the fact that the media would have been all over it by 1998 anyway.

    The remark about the difference between President and King was just silly. The distinction is not relevant to the matter at hand and nothing I said pertains to it.

  68. James Pollock December 24, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    “James — you’re not the only one here with a brain.”
    Thank you for providing me with this information.

    “What I also know is that anyone with a very high security clearance has passed the equivalent of a background check.”
    It’s not the things you do know that get you in trouble, it’s the things that you do know that aren’t so. The “background check” that goes into receiving a security clearance and the “background check” that goes into being allowed to work near children are not the same “background check”. One takes about 5 minutes to run, and the other takes between 6 months and a year… but the point is, they’re looking for different things.

    “You think you can get a presidential-level security clearance without the kind of background check grandma needs to read The Three Little Pigs being included in it?”
    Yes.

    “The place where I might have been wrong is to call it the “highest possible.” It might not be. But it’s certainly high enough that any history of child abuse would have popped up long before he ever entered that classroom. Not to mention the fact that the media would have been all over it by 1998 anyway.”
    I lack your faith in the media.

    “The remark about the difference between President and King was just silly. The distinction is not relevant to the matter at hand and nothing I said pertains to it”
    That comment comes from when you said “he is, is already cleared to do anything he darn well pleases”. I suppose I could have responded “No, he damn well is not!”