You Can Volunteer at School for HALF AN HOUR without Being Fingerprinted. But After That…

Dear Readers: Here’s a little missive from the frontiers of irrationality, brought to you by a terrified culture and a school in Arizona.

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Dear Free-Range Kids: I was shocked when I received this in an email from my daughter’s school: “Mrs. K has informed me that all volunteers must have a fingerprint card prior to volunteering in our schools.  I know there was different information relayed to you all with regards to the fingerprinting matter.  I asked Mrs. K to clarify that for me so that you would be given the correct information.  If you don’t have a fingerprint card but would like to volunteer your time, you may do so as long as you volunteer for no more than half an hour each week.”

So if you ARE a child molester, you can’t commit this horrific act in under 30 minutes?

I am completely offended by this idea that we are all assumed to be criminals until we prove otherwise. In Arizona, where we reside, a fingerprint clearance card costs $65. This may not be a lot to some families, but I happen to know a lot of families that this fee would be a hardship for. We wouldn’t want POOR PEOPLE volunteering at our schools now, would we???
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To add insult to injury, the only way one will be allowed to volunteer is to attend a meeting with Mrs. K, scheduled at the very convenient time of 10am-11:15. Now we don’t want poor people or those neglectful, working parents either.
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Jen Wagner, Green Valley, AZ
Volunteer fast and get outta here!

62 Responses to You Can Volunteer at School for HALF AN HOUR without Being Fingerprinted. But After That…

  1. Backroadsem October 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Well, this is really going to cut into proper grooming time, this half-hour. Good grief. If you’re that worried, set proper volunteer boundaries and don’t let a parent and kid be alone together.

  2. Katie October 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    School hours are inherently inconvenient for many employed people, regardless of what they’re trying to do!

  3. Thomas Donovan October 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Speaking of school hours, if we want to discuss the “health” (sex ed) curriculum with the teachers before deciding whether to let our child attend, we must attend a meeting at one in the afternoon. At least we haven’t gotten to the fingerprinting stage in our town yet.

  4. Heather P. October 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Half an hour a week? That’s not enough time to do much at all, whether productive or malevolent.
    Make copies for the teacher? Read a story to the class? Check quizzes or enter them in the gradebook? Maybe one of those, if you’re lucky. Certainly not more than one.
    And $65 for a fingerprinting, along with a trip to wherever it is (police station? city hall?) for it. Yeah, really convenient.

  5. Sarah in WA October 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Backroadsem, exactly! Why are schools electing to pass the cost of fingerprinting/background checks on to parents who may not be able to afford it, when there’s a simple solution? Setting up a system that would make sure that parents would never be alone with any kids wouldn’t be that hard.

    After all, that’s what we do at my kids’ preschool. The preschool is a co-op, meaning that you work in the class one day a week and drop your child off the other days. Besides the teacher, the rest of the adults working at the school are parents. We have never had to submit fingerprints or background checks. (I know, horrific, right?)

    But there is a system. There always has to be at least two adults at the school when children are there. Simple enough, and it has worked well for years. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anyone anything, and there’s no wait time.

  6. marie October 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Fingerprint cards? Hmmm… Not DNA samples? :-)

    I’m trying to figure out what good the fingerprint cards do. Do they dust children for fingerprints? Or do these cards get fed into a larger fingerprint database?

  7. Jen Wagner (author of the letter) October 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    In Arizona, they fingerprint you and run your fingerprints through a national database and make sure you have no criminal background. When it comes back clean, you get a card that states you are clear. It expires after a few years (5 maybe?). I have actually had one in the past for a job, but it has lapsed.

  8. Suze October 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    I remember quite specifically when my son was in kindergarten and the teacher “pIcked” her volunteers. We were all told that if we wanted to volunteer in the classroom that we ALL could and just let her know. Well, she hand picked the parents SHE wanted and guess who those parents were? All the Mommy’s of the doctors, lawyers and elite-meet-to-eat of the town plus a few of the mom’s were ex-teachers. The rest of us normal folks (aka Great Unwashed) weren’t allowed to help.

    It sounds like this teacher is throwing in some of the rules for good measure and picking and choosing who she wants via the fact that the fingerprint card is a given to exclude some parents. Sounds fishy to me :(

  9. Michelle October 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    They just shouldn’t allow volunteers at all! I mean, a volunteer could be grooming the kid and go see then outside of school and do something!

    Thankfully my son’s daycare (I call it school, since it essentially is) doesn’t require this. I’ve gotten to know the directors and all of his teachers throughout the years. I’ve taken photos of some events in my son’s class, and read books to the kids sometimes, just random stuff if I’m there. I’d be pretty offended if I had to get fingerprinted beforehand.

  10. Warren October 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    It doesn’t really matter how long, when, where, or what the volunteer is doing?
    The school is obviously, because of the stringent background checks and fingerprinting, feeling a shortage of volunteers.
    The school also realizes that these checks and fingerprinting are smoke and mirrors in the world of safety, so allowing volunteers without them, is no problem.

  11. Scott Lazarowitz October 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Fingerprinting is what they do to process criminal suspects. It is a search of one’s person, and is based on suspicion after one has been arrested. If there is no reason to initially suspect someone of some criminal activity, then any search of part of one’s person is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That amendment clearly describes that people have a “right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.”

    Merely giving your name and date of birth should be sufficient to run into the government’s database to do simple criminal background checks.

    It isn’t just hysteria over possible child molesters, but these irrational hysterias have greatly increased since 9/11. The rulers took advantage of that crisis to make this a presumption-of-guilt banana republic society now, and to expand their powers over everyone.

    Having as many fingerprints unjustly gathered without suspicion and thrown into the national database gives the people the illusion of security, but in reality we are all less secure, and less protected from the predatory nature of those bureaucrats.

    But it shouldn’t be of any surprise that these police state procedures are happening in the schools, given that they are largely prisons now anyway.

  12. Melissa October 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    I think it is reasonably safe to say that dangerous felons really are not interested in volunteering for craft time in their child’s classroom. Parents who wish to volunteer their time are unite harmless. The drug addicts, the criminal element – they are not going to bother. Honestly, if some of these schools spent such time employing common sense as they do “safety measures”, they could probably make huge strides in actual education!

  13. Jenna October 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    And yet, the schools are in such need of volunteers but they make it such an undesirable thing.

  14. Jen Connelly October 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    And I bet they all sit around scratching their heads and wondering why no one seems to want to volunteer. I wouldn’t out of principle alone.

  15. missjanenc October 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    The simple cure for this is to refuse this intrusion into your privacy. If all the parents revolted instead of acting like sheep, the school would have to reconsider because they would have no volunteers willing to come forward.

  16. Captain America October 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I am amazed at the ongoing precautions and so forth.

    I just do not believe there are that many child predators around.

    Does anyone have any stats on the percentage of molesters in the general population?

  17. Lollipoplover October 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Good schools want to partner with families. They should welcome volunteers, not treat them to TSA type background inspections before stepping foot in a taxpayer funded school.
    I can happily say i volunteered today for over an hour and all that I had to do was sign in a book my name and address and time in/out. I’ve never been asked for any background check. The activtity we did today was open to any family members that wanted to volunteer (grandparents, aunts, etc.).

  18. Kurt Kemmerer October 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    As Lollipoplover notes, schools want volunteers. They are understaffed, and few offer the array of arts and physical education that was available when we were kids. Parent volunteers pick up some of the slack there, and help do prep work for teachers who long have any break time to do it themselves. Parents help at lunch time and recess (what recess there is), because Principals must cover those, as no other staffing is available.

    Yes, we had to have a background check done by our district, but it didn’t cost us anything, and we didn’t have to be finger printed. I doubt there is any evidence to show that finger printing will stop an actual abuser, as well.

    Ugh.

  19. Kurt Kemmerer October 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    As for the suggestion of never letting a parent and a kid be alone together, what would the definition of “being alone” be? At my kid’s school parents often help those who need extra help one-on-one, but it is usually done at a desk in the hall way. (There are no available rooms.) And what about a parent in charge of a small group of kids on a trip to the zoo? At some point, the kids will need to go to the bathroom, and, depending on the age of the kids and the laws of the state, the parent needs to be with them or risk being accused of neglect.

    It seems like we need to acknowledge that a background check is already done in most places, and most teachers and principals get to know the parents who volunteer quite well. Are these guarantees of safety? No. BUT: Are fingerprint checks guarantees of safety? No.

  20. Bob Davis October 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Back in the 70’s, when my daughters were in school, I usually worked a night shift, which meant I could help out during the day, usually as a “chaperone” on field trips. I was usually the only dad in the group, so I would be asked to tend the rear of the bus, where the “rowdier” kids tended to gather. I managed to keep them seated (most of the time) and didn’t object if they gave “blow the horn” hand signals to the drivers of 18-wheelers as we passed. Being asked to submit a fingerprint card would have been unimaginable. And I did have prints on file because I worked in a plant that did Defense Dept. contract work. Oh for those simpler times….

  21. Donna October 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    “Setting up a system that would make sure that parents would never be alone with any kids wouldn’t be that hard.”

    Or maybe we should just accept that parents are not volunteering in school so that they can molest their kid’s classmates. Even if they wanted to molest kids – most parents don’t – they have access to kids all the time by virtue of having kids. They don’t need to volunteer at school and diddle kids in the bathroom.

  22. Warren October 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Well put Donna.

  23. Jen Wagner (author of the letter) October 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    Donna, your last sentence made me laugh.

  24. Beth October 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Donna, as usual, spot on. It seems to be that setting up a system in which a volunteer parent is never alone with a child assumes the parent is a criminal as much as fingerprinting does.

  25. Emily October 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I also agree with Donna–the best (and simplest) solution here is to just stop treating all parents like criminals, and welcome them into the school to volunteer, by eliminating the hurdles like the expensive background checks, mandatory meetings that take place during most people’s work hours, which may be intended to promote safety, but all they really do is foster animosity.

  26. Incunabulum October 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Here in Az the fingerprinting thing is really getting out of hand.
    I’ve got a friend who teaches at a local middle school and he tells me of his colleague (who teaches the same subject and was hired at the same time as him – at the start of this school year) is probably going to be let go because he can’t get the fingerprint card. He has a misdemeanor drug possesion charge, in another state, from when he was 18.
    The guy’s 25 now, spent 4 freaking years in college to get a degree to teach middle school level social studies, and has had a clean record since. But that drug conviction will keep him from being able to teach 8th graders out here in the arse end of AZ.

  27. Donna October 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    My school district in Georgia has two different standards for volunteering. Parents can volunteer without any form of background check. Sign in and out at the office and you are good. Outside volunteers through the mentor program – university students mostly but some of the general public – must get a criminal background check (no fingerprints to my knowledge).

    Seems like a reasonable compromise. We trust that parents are volunteering for legitimate purposes. We are more cautious of people coming off the street to volunteer with no connection to any kid in the school. And the mentors all work alone with a single underprivileged child assigned to them, sometimes after school, so the relationship is different and the children involved are highly susceptible to being taken advantage of by someone who pays attention to them.

  28. Jenna October 20, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    I equate this with what the TSA does to “make us safer”. People go along with it because they really believe it makes us safer when really, it does nothing.

  29. Dave October 20, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    School complain about lack if parental involvement. Yet when parents want to volunteer the have to attend a meeting at a time when they are a work and have to pay for a fingerprint before over being found guilty of a crime. Touch can’t have it both ways and our judicial system is founded on the principal if innocent until proven guilty.

  30. Donald October 20, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    I’m suspicious about this. Are the decision makers for the school brain dead or are their backs against the wall financially from insurance profiteering?

    Community growth is how to make the kids safer. This rules is cancer for the community.

  31. Yan Seiner October 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    @Donald: They’re not brain dead. It’s all in the name of “Security Theater” – same with most of what TSA does, or fingerprinting, or having intrusive sign-in sign-out processes.

    “See how well we’re taking care of you?”

    Fortunately our school districts here seem to have found a decent blend. Yes, people need to be fingerprinted – if you’re staff. But if you just want to volunteer, the teachers have to know who you are, and that’s about it. Schools typicall don’t have any security measures. But our elementary schools are small enough where the teachers know most of the parents by sight, so a strange person would be noticed.

    We have more problems in high schools, where occasional (and I mean occasional) violence or threats occur, but then again the school district doesn’t overreact.

  32. AW13 October 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    @incunabulum: I’m surprised for two reasons: 1. the district presumably should have done a background check already, which means they should have known about this minor infraction before they hired him and 2. when I was doing student teaching, we had a meeting about applying to the state for our teaching licenses. Our teachers were adamant that we be upfront about our backgrounds, saying that the state does not deny teaching licenses for minor drinking and drug charges that occurred in the past. The state is looking for child abuse/major drinking or drug crimes/evidence of current illegal behavior, that sort of thing. So if he’s gotten a license from the state, the state already knows about his record and clearly doesn’t think it enough of an issue to prevent him from teaching. What a sad (and maddening) state of affairs.

  33. Susan October 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    “To add insult to injury, the only way one will be allowed to volunteer is to attend a meeting with Mrs. K, scheduled at the very convenient time of 10am-11:15. Now we don’t want poor people or those neglectful, working parents either.”

    I totally agree that the fingerprinting is over the top and ridiculous. However, I’m sure the teacher just assumed that if you aren’t available during school hours to come to a meeting then you probably aren’t available to volunteer during school hours. I know as a SAHM, it would be more convenient for me to come during school hours when the children are in school and I can get a sitter for the younger two then it would be to come out at 7:00 at night when it’s family time and we’re dealing with baths and getting ready for bed. It’s more convenient for the teacher, as well. And I would imagine MOST if not all of the parents who do not have a flexible enough schedule to attend during school hours will probably be unavailable to volunteer most of the time anyways and wouldn’t come out for the 7:00 meeting. So I’m sure she wasn’t trying to exclude working parents. If your work schedule isn’t flexible enough to make the meeting this particular day but normally it would be flexible enough to volunteer during the day then I’m sure you just have to mention it to the teacher and she will either reschedule or most likely just catch you up and give you the info needed.

  34. CrazyCatLady October 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Well, good luck on that school getting enough parents to staff the weekend “Harvest Festival” or “Earth Day”. I have been at schools that do these and they require a large amount of parents to staff the stalls of games and crafts. But, if those parents can only do it if they attend the week day thing and get the finger prints….well, the are shooting them selves in the financial foot too.

  35. Donna October 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    @Susan – I disagree 100%. It is VERY easy to get a day off work to volunteer for field trips, festivals, book sales, field day or other big events. Every job gives personal time off. It is also pretty easy for many white collar workers to build a regular volunteer time into their work schedule. Many parents work weekends but are off some weekdays.

    It is far more difficult for many to get off an hour in the middle of the day for a meeting. Consider commute times and this may mean that some must take an entire day off work to attend an hour long meeting. I regularly took half days off to volunteer at my kid’s school back in the states. I probably wouldn’t take a half day off to attend a ridiculous meeting about volunteering at my kid’s school.

    It is even more difficult for many to take time off on someone else’s schedule. Work schedules may allow for volunteering on Mondays when off work but not on the day of this meeting. I have one of the most flexible jobs available, except on court days when it is completely inflexible. I could volunteer whenever needed 4 days a week. I absolutely cannot attend a meeting scheduled at this time if held on Wednesday. While most parents don’t have court obligations, they do probably have some times during a week that they just have to be at work for some reason and, if this meeting is scheduled at one of those times, they can’t attend although they could be flexible to volunteer at other times. For example, many of the parent volunteers at my child’s school are college professors, grad students, doctoral students or otherwise affiliated with the university. They easily volunteer around their class schedules but, if this meeting is during a class, they can’t attend.

    Basically, this meeting time says that the school only expects SAHMs to volunteer and makes it difficult for working parents who would like to volunteer and could do so sometimes, although clearly not all the time. And kinda makes them feel unwelcome. Considering something like 78% of mothers work (according to a Newsweek article I read this week), this doesn’t seem like a good plan to get volunteers (I don’t think that most schools that have these insane rules really want volunteers all that much). It seems like maybe the school should cater to the 78%, not the 22%.

  36. Susan October 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Like I said, it may not have been a consideration and the author of the above article should mention it to the teacher. Especially if she can find a few other working moms who agree. I’m sure if the teacher really needs volunteers, she’d accommodate. Or it could be, like you said, that she really doesn’t need the extra volunteers. Either way, I think talking to the teacher about before making assumptions that she doesn’t want working moms, would be wise. If after conversing with her and the teacher still insists that if you can not make time to attend this meeting, then you will not be permitted to volunteer, then I would be upset. Even as a SAHM, one of my little ones could get sick on that day, which would prohibit me from attending, and I would hope the teacher wouldn’t be so inflexible as to not allow me to volunteer the rest of the year. I would bet anything she’s not that inflexible and if she wants volunteers, she’ll work with the parents.

  37. tina October 20, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    I don’t know, Donna. I’m a teacher and have held meetings for parent volunteers. Probably half the moms in my classes over the years work, and when questioned, probably 75% of those tell me that unless it’s already a day off work, they really can’t just take a day off easily. It counts as a sick day, which they don’t want to use in case they need it. Maybe really good jobs give plenty of PTO days, but not all jobs do. :( Now they are sometimes able to help on weekends, but the ones I get during the school days are a majority SAHMs. I will get a few working moms here and there, but it’s more the exception.

  38. Andy October 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    @Donna “It is VERY easy to get a day off work to volunteer for field trips, festivals, book sales, field day or other big events. Every job gives personal time off. It is also pretty easy for many white collar workers to build a regular volunteer time into their work schedule.

    It is far more difficult for many to get off an hour in the middle of the day for a meeting.”

    I guess that depends on the job, but I never had one like you describe. Getting off for a meeting would be easy, I would just left and stayed longer to make up the time. That one is very easy for me. If it is really occasional and less then two hours, I would not even had to make up the time.

    Regular volunteer time is more difficult, my employers accepted the need for occasional flexibility, regular one would be a problem.

    A full day off depends on how much vacancies I have left of course and I have to know well in advance.

  39. Andy October 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    I want to add that “just left” means informed my manager and left.

  40. Tsu Dho Nimh October 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    This idea is stupid. All it means is that the criminal – if one were inclined to volunteer – is smart enough to not get caught. Yet.

    Until very recently, Jerry Sandusky could have passed a fingerprint check with flying colors.

  41. Donna October 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Probably depends on the demographics of your school. Most of the working mothers I know regularly volunteer at their kids’ schools. My daughter’s US school is mostly working women. They do all tend to be professionals with advanced degrees so have more ability to choose careers that allow more flexibility or people who work nights/weekends so have time off during the week naturally (hospital workers, retail).

    But my daughter’s school doesn’t have or seek classroom volunteers. That may have changed this year with the loss of the parapros but they didn’t really encourage or desire parents to be in the classroom during the day unless some special event. Her kindergarten teacher last year really discouraged it because of helicopter parents. She said there were parents who were “volunteering” to hover over their children. I think there are some volunteers who come in and teach specific skills (big artist and musician parent base so they may come in) but volunteers are really only generated for events like book sales, field day, poetry day or tending the school gardens and the like.

  42. Donna October 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    @ Andy – I admit that I know very few people who work 8-5 jobs so my view of what people can do could be skewed. The professionals I know have great flexibility in their workdays and aren’t tied to an office 8-5. They work far more than 40 hours a week but they can often do it at home or on off hours. Being physically present in the office from 8-5 is only mandatory if something is happening that requires your presence. Work is production based, not hours based – I am currently working my first job in 15 years that even keeps track of sick/vacation time and it is still only for full days off. For much of my career as a lawyer, it has been much easier to just have it known that I am unavailable every Thursday from noon to 2 than to try to take a unexpected hour off.

  43. Donna October 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Now that I think about it, this is only the second job I’ve worked that kept track or sick/vacations days – and I’ve been working since I was 13 (8 if you include employment by my parents). They have all been hourly jobs or as-long-as-the-work-is-done-and-you-are-not-abusing-the-system jobs. And I’ve never had a job that counted off for hours missed during a workday; just entire days off. So maybe my view is very skewed.

  44. Andy October 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    @Donna I am working professional which is why I can leave for 1-2 hours without no problems. I do not have to be there 8-5. However, I have to be there generally during the day (There is some time specification in the contract, but I do not remember when exactly it is).

    Regular missing out is a hustle for colleges, because then they can not just expect me to be there when they need me. Part of my job is to answer colleges questions or help them. Plus, they would have to organize meetings around my schedule.

    Full day out is always counted and I know about anyone whose full day out is not counted. Probably a cultural difference. As long as the work is done is quite tricky, because measuring software developers output is hard. Most of the work is done under time pressure, deadline negotiations are daily part of life and no matter how fast you are, someone expected it faster.

    You-are-not-abusing-the-system here is basically defined as no uncounted full days out, not regular half days off and reachable for personal consultation most of the time.

    Btw, how do you work far more than 40 hours per week and do non-negligent amount of regular volunteering?

    I generally try not to work more than those 40 hours. I found out that if I do overtimes for more than 1-2 week, my productivity drops substantially. I make much more mistakes, have to fix them or just stare into computer longer. My observation is that my colleges tend to chit-chat much more on overtime. Not worth it, at least for me.

  45. Owen Allen October 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    In the state of Qld, Australia, unless you have had a police check clearing you of child offenses, known as a blue card, you won’t be invited to be resource at a school – we’ve just given up on asking war veterans etc to come and give lectures. Teachers themselves use the very sensible ‘line of sight’ rule in dealing one on one with children. In otherwords, you might be out of hearing range but not visual range of another competent human. This rule actually comes about for both teacher and child safety, especially because some children in school have already, may be currently, physically and sexually abused in the home. In terms of protecting children, among the people involved in paedophile rings in Australia are always policemen, teachers, health professionals, and just about every other professional group. BUT they are a very small minority of our society and their activities have been much curtailed in the recent generation by increased openness between parents and children about sexuality and appropriate human interactions. All the big cases about child abuse currently in Australia are being run by 50 year old men ie they were abused 40 years ago in the era of isolation of children and secrecy.

  46. Donald October 21, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    When the community is friendly, parents know each other. . The community can easily recognize an outsider. They can also look out for one another.

    When we have gestapo security and encourage parents to be suspicious of each other, the community isn’t friendly. Parents don’t know each other. Therefore it’s easier for an outsider to slip in.

    This is so obvious to me that it’s hard for me to comprehend why others don’t see it.

    Therefore, increasing security to the point of ridiculous puts children in danger. It also insults the intelligence of the child and installs paranoia in them. It greatly hinders their ability to develop self esteem.

    An another note, I’m also highly suspicious (justified? or not? but at something else. I’m suspicious at insurance profiteering and wonder if that’s a big reason why school superintendents are often afraid of their own shadow.

    I can’t help thinking that their back is against the wall or are they scared stupid from the liability hysteria?

    BTW

    Insurance profits very well from this. Just like child abduction, high payouts of ridiculous compensation gets reported 1000 times more often than it actually happens.

  47. Earth.W October 21, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    Lucky it’s not a Catholic School. They’d be collecting samples from the, urr…don’t worry about it.

  48. Beth October 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    If I am a pedophile, and I have children, and they have friends who come over to the house once in awhile, I have FAR more access to kids (both mine and others) than I would occasionally helping out in a classroom. Yet no fingerprint card or background check is required for me to have my own kids, or for other kids to come over.

    And the same schools that are SO convinced that all parents are guilty until proven innocent, have no qualms about sending kids home to un-fingerprinted and un-backgrounded parents,

  49. Jen (author of the letter) October 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I work approximately a 45-minute drive from my daughter’s school. So attending an hour meeting would require taking off almost 3 hours. Which actually ISN’T an issue at my job – if I had more than 3 days notice. That email I received on a Monday and the meeting was on a Thursday. I do have a Monday-Friday job, but as of today, my husband will be off Thursdays and Fridays, so HE could volunteer at the school quite a bit. Not only does getting a fingerprint card cost $65, it can take anywhere up to 8 weeks to get one.

    Also, the “Mrs. K” in the letter is the school director, not the teacher. I LOVE the teacher this year.

  50. Donna October 21, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    @Andy –

    I don’t work more than 40 hours a week anymore. I went from a very high power (50+ hours a week) job to a government job when I had my daughter. However, some of my former coworkers back when I worked at the law firm did manage to do a good bit of volunteering. The job was essentially 24/7 with no set criteria for being in the office ever. You needed to show your face regularly and make nice with the partners but, unless a particular project demanded your physical presence somewhere at a specific time, nobody cared when the work is done or where. We had attorneys who worked all kinds of different schedules.

    Maybe I’ve worked in unusual places, but I’ve always found employers very flexible if you do a good job, are flexible yourself and treat the job in a respectful manner by not taking advantage of the situation. I had to take my daughter to speech therapy every week for about a year that caused me to miss 2 or so hours of work. It wasn’t a problem since the boss knew that (a) I don’t take excessive time off work, (b) I would cancel if something needed my attention, (c) I wouldn’t schedule her appointment at a time where someone else had to cover for me, and (d) I would do what it took to meet the needs of my clients regardless.

  51. Kimberly October 22, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    My district was forced to put this type of thing in place, because a known pedophile tried to volunteer. The media totally ignored the fact that staff realized the guy was bad bad news and notified the family (he was trying to contact a former victim) and the cops.

    The staff at several schools tried to delay him – by having him fill out paperwork. He would get twitchy and leave going to the next school down the road. Where they would call the cops and try and delay him. 4 different police departments (Two city PDs, County Sherrif, and the DPS) were involved, and finally caught him walking into a school.

    All the media reported was Staff at multiple schools allow known pedophile to volunteer.

  52. Andy October 22, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    @Donna It probably depends on how much of your work is teamwork, whether there is a trust between management and employers and how good financially the company is. Local customs also plays a big role I guess.

    My other observation is that those people work a lot and do quite a lot of good, but they do not measure how much time they spend with what.

    For me, knowing how much time something took (at least approximately) is important not only because of time on/off counting. When working for a good company, I have to do estimates on how much time will something take. Those are then used for planning and billing. (Bad companies let salesman and managers estimate that, then they blame you when you do not make it.)

    Counting real work time is interesting by the way, especially when you start to count off all “water cooler” chit chats, browsing and so on. Really working, only working with little down times will make me dead tired after surprisingly little hours. No overtime is necessary for that :)

  53. backroadsem October 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    When I was teaching, I never considered a parent and a student to be alone together even if they were doing one-on-one work at a desk out in hall. I usually had my classroom door open (as did most of the school, it was just what we did for no particular reason) and people were always wandering about. My original comment was simply that if you had reason to be concerned about parents and children being together, if it were such a big deal, make up a system that works for everyone.

    I currently work in Scouting, and I have a co-worker who is horrified at the idea of a ScoutParent (basically, a little position a parent can sign up for so they can help at meetings and bake cookies or whatever). This position does not require a background check (and yes, I know there has been a lot of stuff in the news about BSA and its background checks) because these people are not leaders, but parents who wanted to appear on the roster. I finally asked her if she wouldl want to pay $15 for a background check just to back cookies, and that made her rethink her complaint.

  54. EricS October 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Then I say, don’t volunteer. If the school is “so concerned”, then they should front up the cash to hire fully background checked professionals. If your going to do something, you might as well do it right. Not just what suits your needs. Then it just becomes hypocrisy. More about protecting the school, than the students. And really, 30 min is plenty of time for someone who is committed to molesting or abducting a child, to do so. And how do they know Mrs. K isn’t making it harder for parents to volunteer, so that “she can spend more time with the children” without their parents around. Hmmmmm. See how easy it is to paint ANYONE as a pedophile? The school is pretty much saying parents who volunteer are potential pedophiles. By that reasoning, so can the teachers. For educators, they’re pretty dumb.

  55. Diane S. October 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    @Donna – probably much of the general public who wants to volunteer have kids that are already grown, and really not a whole lot of stuff to do. I was considering volunteering at the local elementary schools for helping students learn how to read better – why? Because my kids are grown, I taught both how to read, I’ve taught in private schools, K-1st grade, teaching children how to read..plus reading opens a whole big world for kids.

    I really doubt the perverts would be going to schools, where there’s others about all the time.

  56. Donna October 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    @Andy – Every single second is counted when you work for a law firm. Client billing is done in 6 minute increments. If I had my old billing sheets, I could tell you EXACTLY how much time I spent on every single project I worked on during those years. Every attorney could. We were required to BILL – charge a client for actual work done on their case – a minimum of 2000 hours a year (which breaks down to 38 hours a week if you never take a vacation and most years you billed more than 2000). There was also a good bit of non-billable work to be done – keeping timesheets and other administrative requirements, dealing with IT issues, training, smoozing with partners and clients, entertaining summer associates, etc. – that was in addition to the 38 hours. So when I say 50+ hours of work a week, I mean that literally. Water cooler chats with your friends and surfing the internet are time spent in the office on top of the 50 working hours. And it is an average. The work ebbed and flowed so it was common to bill 80 hours a week for several weeks and then chill out and only bill 20 for few to catch your breath.

    But, yes, when you are working on a project that requires the physical presence of everyone on the team in the office at the same time, you can’t be off galavanting. When results are needed during the day, you can’t play all day and do the work at night. That is part of being a responsible employee – doing what you need to do to get the job done even if it messes up your plans.

    It also depends on the quality of employees. One rotten apple spoils the whole bag. Not only does management rebel, but I worked one job where many of the employees were begging for set leave time because one employee took off constantly and they were tired her getting the same paycheck as them for half the work. I only worked there for about a year and a half and this was one of the reasons I left.

  57. Donna October 22, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    @Dianne – I live in a college town so most of the volunteering public is university students who have had little time to accrue a criminal history. But I don’t have a problem with schools checking people who volunteer for the mentor program. These people are going to have a very close one-on-one relationship with an at-risk student. These kids are not Beaver Cleaver. You are going to be assigned Jose whose parents immigrated illegally from Juarez where the police are in the pockets of the local cartel. He has great parents but they will never report anything untoward as their only experience with police is corruption and doing so means that they will be seeing the sights of Juarez again very soon. Or maybe Tavious from the ‘hood whose mom is on crack, dad is in prison and 80 year old great grandma is trying to keep the 7 siblings out of foster care as best she can but is barely physically capable of caring for them. He has no self-esteem and no experience with normal relationships. Great grandma is too overwhelmed to notice problems and lacks energy to do anything about it if she does. A little extra precaution is warranted.

  58. backroadsem October 22, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    EricS, you brought up a good point:

    I see a conflict between the “don’t blink or your child will be snatched!” and the “oh, a half an hour is perfectly fine”.

    Well, which is it?

  59. Rosalie bent October 27, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    it really is all very silly isnt it? I am gobsmacked by the sheer idiocy of it because it is just a low-return policy but rather a NO-return policy. As Lenore once posited, has there EVER been an example of a child molested or kidnapped by a volunteering school parent? I’ve never heard of one and nor has anyone else. the same applies to Sunday SChool where Ive never heard of a child being molested or kidnapped either.

    One poster queried the value of the two adults at any one time with kids. Well that is about the only one of these ridiculous ‘child-safe’ policies that I approve of. Firstly, it is only barely annoying but at the same time provides the adults protection from the craxy nutjob parent who wants to claim their child is being molested. And we know they exist, dont we???

    But even in this acceptable regulation we find that child protection isnt what is at issue but ADULT protection. All of this idiocy is simply the protection of the church or the school or the adults and not the child. because deep down, we know that in these places children are NOT at risk.

    50 years ago horrendous things happend to children but not from lack of supervision but from lack of the concept that it was even possible. Somehow in our collective insanity we assumed that no one would ever molest a child. Now of course, we know different and that simple knowlege is what has made the difference – not the police checks or finger printing or security cameras. Just the removal of ignorance.

    But the pendulum never centres. It swings from one side to the other. a few decades ago we assumed that no adult would ever hurt a child. Now we assume that we ALL would.

    People are inherently stupid. In that, nothing has changed!

  60. Zeta July 9, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    @Rosalie bent – “But the pendulum never centres. It swings from one side to the other”

    How very true. The concept of balance and reason has gone the way of the dodo.

    Agree with many of the posts here also – it’s absolutely ridiculous, and though I have willingly jumped through hoops to volunteer for some organisations, I simply draw the line at having myself fingerprinted.

  61. Oasis July 10, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    It is very important to encourage all people (regardless of socio-economic backgrounds) to engage in community volunteerism – however, I wonder if this is more of a legal requirement?

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