To Volunteer, All You Have to do Is…

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Below krttyndtkd
is just one of several letters I’ve gotten recently from parents frustrated or furious about having to get background checked before they can do something as simple as coach T-ball, or chaperon kids on a field trip. The idea is that somehow, in the time a parent is shepherding a gaggle of goofy kids around the prehistoric mammal diorama, he or she could easily molest them or groom them for later depravity.

Particularly galling is the fact — FACT! — that in Pennsylvania, where this particular parent is writing from and Jerry Sandusky’s legacy looms large, Jerry himself would have passed all these background checks.

A society where we are taught to automatically regard everyone as a threat is sick, sad and cruel. Wasteful, too. (Think TSA.) If you have stopped volunteering because of all the distrust and hoop-jumping, please let me know.  

Dear Free-Range Kids:

I’ve had enough of the “If it saves one” mentality that is taking over our ability to think rationally. Right now, I am pulling my hair out getting things ready for the end-of-the-year party tomorrow.  Sadly, I’m the only volunteer.  I don’t mind throwing the party (old school outdoor games like relay races and water balloon tosses), but when I got home tonight, I found this email about the requirements to volunteer next year.

I honestly don’t think I’m going through the hassle.

This is RIDICULOUS to require someone to have this to VOLUNTEER.
They are children, not nuclear bombs.

New volunteer requirements in Pennsylvania:

“1. PA Criminal Record Check – Required by all volunteers –Access this website to complete your online PA Criminal Record check: https://epatch.state.pa.us/Home.jsp

a. Completed online, instantly available to print, save and/or provide electronically.

2. PA Child Abuse History Clearance – Required by all volunteers – This is the website you will use to access the online application for your PA Child Abuse Clearance:

https://www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home

a. Completed online and will be mailed and emailed within 14 days.

3. FBI Federal Criminal History Record Check – Required by some volunteers – This is the website you will use to access the online application for your FBI fingerprint check:

https://www.pa.cogentid.com/index_pde.htm

This is a 2-STEP process – (1) register and pay on-line (2) go to a fingerprinting site to have your fingerprints submitted electronically. You may also schedule an appointment through the district to have the fingerprints completed.
b. Volunteers are exempt from this requirement if they:

· Have resided within Pennsylvania consecutively for the past 10 years; AND

· Complete and return the attached Volunteer Affidavit on page three.

c. Volunteers who have not resided within PA for the past 10 years must complete.

· Registration is completed online, a physical appointment is necessary.

· A receipt with the registration number must be provided to Human Resources.

State Police and Child Abuse clearance fees will be waived by the state effective July 25, 2015. New volunteer clearances must be dated within one year. By law, if you do not have these documents submitted on or before their expiration date, your ability to volunteer will be in jeopardy.” 

Here’s what’s in jeopardy: a society that believes in innocence until proven guilty. – L.

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My spidey sense tells me he or she is about to prey upon our precious children.

A fingerprint. Hmm. My spidey sense tells me he or she is about to prey upon our precious children.

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118 Responses to To Volunteer, All You Have to do Is…

  1. Gary June 19, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I wonder what the process here in Jersey would be and how similar it is to what I had to go through to purchase a firearm, probably more stringent and what it takes to get a FPID here in Jersey is ridiculous.

  2. Tony Shreck June 19, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    The only reason I have not stopped volunteering at my kids’ schools in protest of this kind of thing (it’s not quite that bad in Florida, but does require an electronic background check) is because the net effect would be to deny the kids. So far, I’ve not been willing to sacrifice them to my conviction that this is wrongheaded policy, but every year it gets harder to fill out that form in good conscience.

  3. Gary June 19, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    Ok so until the boy is actually *IN* school I won’t be able to find out. I was on the school’s webiste and that info seems to be on the PTA page in the Parent Portal, oh well, what’s waiting one more year…

  4. Bridget June 19, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    I had to do less to get my job. In finance. FINANCE!

  5. Amy Utzinger June 19, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    Wow! That is crazy!

    In Arizona there is nothing like this, and I’ve volunteered a lot at a lot of schools and never had to fill out anything. Any when I was president of the elementary school PTA, we were desperate for volunteers of any kind. I can only imagine that this would greatly reduce the number of people who are willing to volunteer at a school… and they are already few enough!

  6. Melanie June 19, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    I had to get a background check (via form provided at sign ups) to volunteer at the concesstion stand during my daughter’s Little League games. I’m in New York.

  7. ChicagoDad June 19, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    In addition to the background checks, I had to go to a 3-hour training class about spotting and reporting abuse. And for one of the programs I volunteer for, I had another training course and paperwork for being a state-mandated reporter of abuse.

  8. DaveS June 19, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    My wife had to go through similar processes to volunteer at two churches we attended in the Chicago burbs. If I were to also have volunteered for the children’s ministries we wouldn’t have been able to serve in the same room together.

    We’ve just finished moving to a small town in Iowa and the church here (not a small church by any means), asks parents who put their kids in care during service to volunteer at least four Sundays a year.

    The only thing they ask of you is your presence. It was refreshing.

    I suppose its possible they do check out their volunteers who come almost every weekend, but we’re still getting settled so we haven’t checked into that yet.

  9. Warren June 19, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Did the police check for coaching, but made it clear to the town, that I wasn’t doing separate ones for each sport. If they started adding the rest of that crap there would be no coaches. We have told them that we would all quit.
    As for the school, never jumped through the hoops. They needed me, and that was it.

  10. Warren June 19, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Forgot, our asst.coaches are just picked from team parents by the coach, no checks required.

  11. Beth June 19, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    “If I were to also have volunteered for the children’s ministries we wouldn’t have been able to serve in the same room together.”

    Wait, what? I can’t get my head around this….what do they think you’ll do as a couple that you *won’t* do singly?

  12. Dot June 19, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    I haven’t stopped volunteering, but I haven’t jumped through the hoops either. Although they SAY you must, no one has ever checked to see if I have, and until they tell me I can’t volunteer, I’ll keep doing it.

  13. Donna June 19, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    I needed to do less to be licensed by the state to practice law. And that provides an income as a result. No way that I would do all that to volunteer at my child’s school.

    We just have to show up to volunteer at my school. No background checks at all . And our school doesn’t just recruit volunteers from parents. A couple times a year (mostly for the book fairs) emails go out to the local community listservs asking citizens to volunteer at their neighborhood school. This year we were checked out at the book fair by the former mayor who doesn’t have a child or grandchild in our school, but does live in the neighborhood. They don’t have to get background checks either. The one exception is the mentoring program and that makes some sense since it does involve a long-term, one-on-one relationship with an at-risk child (the ones most likely to be preyed upon).

  14. Donna June 19, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    “‘If I were to also have volunteered for the children’s ministries we wouldn’t have been able to serve in the same room together.’

    Wait, what? I can’t get my head around this….what do they think you’ll do as a couple that you *won’t* do singly?”

    Beth, I think the the fear is more that one spouse won’t rat out the other.

  15. Jill June 19, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    The only way this kind of crazy, intrusive and humiliating (yes, humiliating!) garbage will stop is to refuse to participate. Volunteers have a choice of whether or not be agree to be fingerprinted and investigated and we can say no.
    Oh, but then the children can’t on go fields trips or play T-ball! Maybe at first they can’t, but if enough people refuse to give in, eventually the rules will change and volunteers will stop being treated like suspected child molesters.
    I refused to have a background check when I volunteered to work with the homeless. Not that I’m wanted by Interpol or anything, but I dislike cooperating with useless bureaucracy for no good reason. They took me on anyway after trying and failing to get me to change my mind. The moral is, if they’re desperate enough for volunteers they’ll forgo the red tape.
    I have a suspicion that some of this background checking is farmed out to private companies that profit from stranger danger hysteria and that market their services to school districts and organizers of kids’ sports teams on the grounds that the world is simply seething with predators who can’t wait to get their hands on little Jaxxon and Madison while in the guise of coaching them at soccer.
    This nonsense has got to stop but it won’t stop until we refuse to cooperate.

  16. Corey June 19, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    What’s often missed here is the huge risk of identity theft inherent in these processes. In every school in America there is now a big filing cabinet, no doubt barely secured, with vast amounts of very detailed information on every parent in the area.

    It serves no coherent purpose. In many cases the schools publish the rules and then don’t enforce them (my case). But any parent that “plays by the rules” now has enough information — easily stolen — to have their identity stolen.

    If these bureaucrats want to demand so much detailed information on us — the parents of the children we entrust to THEIR care — how about we subject THEM to some scrutiny as to what they do with this information once they have it?

  17. Brenna June 19, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    I teach music to the kids at church during faith formation. I’ve been told I have to do many of these same background checks, and to date I haven’t done them. I am strongly conflicted on what I’d do if they tell me I can’t volunteer unless I do.

  18. kate June 19, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    Dot- I just took over as a volunteer coordinator. I’m ready to quit already. My first task was to go through volunteer lists to make sure everyone has had a background check. This is creating so much busywork. First, we have to have a notary at training sessions so people can fill out paperwork properly. Then, we ask for a donation of $10 for the state check. The organization covers those that cannot pay. Paperwork goes to the office, and checked for errors, There are always a couple of stupid omissions, so we have to track down the volunteer to fill it out again. It is sent to the state, then someone has to keep the files updated. Teachers and others who have had checks done in the past 3 years have to bring in a copy. All this manpower and money that could be better used to actually help our familes in need!

  19. Andrea June 19, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    If I didn’t have to do it to have and parent my own kids, I’m sure not doing all that just to VOLUNTEER.

  20. BL June 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    “What’s often missed here is the huge risk of identity theft inherent in these processes. ”

    Risk? It’s probably the purpose.

  21. Asparagus Freak June 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    I need to start investing a background check companies. Or maybe start one, because obviously someone’s making a lot of money. Yep,it happened again. And again. And again. Three ludicrious, ridiculous background check stories from the last month. First, for an event my children’s elementary school is doing, the person in charge sent out an email saying that the school secretary had said that “technically, all visitors to the school [on the day of the event], need to have a background check.” Really? ALL visitors? I called the school for clarification, and, as I had guessed, the secretary who had said that, backed down quickly when I questioned her. Turns out it’s only volunteers who need checks, not everyone. But jeez louise, can you imagine? If EVERYONE who stepped foot on a school in our district needed a background check? Every fan at a football game, every talent show audience member, every parent coming in for parent-teacher conferences…. Absolutely ridiculous! And, while I was quite sure that the secretary had it wrong, and that the district hadn’t become that draconian, why was no one else questioning this? Why wasn’t the secretary questioning that????

    OK, second situation: My son and husband attended a boy scout meeting this week for the first time ever. Rule here is that a parent has to accompany the child to every scout meeting—I guess they don’t want the leaders to have to deal with a bunchy of unaccompanied boys who they can’t control while they’re teaching leadership, responsibility. And then the parents were told that they all had to get a background check. So, I guess that leads to the question—if a child has parents who in fact have criminal backgrounds, the exact child who could probably use a good program like Boy Scouts more than just about anyone, can that child not attend?

    And then just today, my husband found out that the soccer team he coaches for our 6 year old son, ALL volunteers need to be registered and have a background check. Not just the main coaches (because, you know, coaching a team of 6 year olds, with their parents watching from just yards a way in a field with several other teams on it too, is the PERFECT place to commit a crime!), but ANYONE who volunteers in ANY capacity! He asked what was the criteria and was told, “anyone who has a roster of the team players.” Yes, a roster. Because that list of 12 boys with their parents names, phone and email addresses.

    I will say that requirements for that volunteer in PA, shown in the original post, is WAY over the top. I would organized a protest.

  22. MichaelF June 19, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    I went through less security to get my current job where I have access to PHI & PII for many national insurers. I also go through less with the yearly prevention programs as I volunteer for the Cub Scouts my sons are in. School is way less. If they asked me for fingerprints and all that stuff I would have to pay for before doing, I’d refuse. Even if it meant my kids would lose out, overall we lose more giving in to hysteria like this.

    Jill has it right, the private companies doing the checking are making money so they have an interest in promoting their services and whipping up hysteria in the schools. Not sure how much of it does happen but the Elementary School we have implicitly demands parental involvement but the checking is relatively lax, its a peer pressure thing but I have met some nice people through it so I don’t mind.

    My kids go to a Chinese Language School on the weekends, we are expected to volunteer 2 Sundays a year, with that I have NEVER had to do a background check. Much of this involves watching kids in the halls, handing out snacks in break time, and so on. Depends on the culture running the kids I suppose.

  23. John June 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    In 1984, I first volunteered for Big Brothers. The screening process was extremely extensive. I was fingerprinted and given a background check. I then had to be interviewed by a board of people from the community who asked me all kinds of very personal questions about my sex life. Now I understand that there has to be some screening process for potential Big Brother/Big Sister volunteers but that was ridiculous. The counselor then asked me if I ever heard of NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association). It was a fairly new organization back then and I informed him that I had heard of it. Well, right then and there, all the red flags went up. “You mean, you are familiar with this organization?” he asked me with eyebrows raised as if being familiar with this organization meant that I was a charter member. He then asked me the dumbest question of all time. “So what do you think of it?” I then answered his question with an equally dumb question of my own. “Well, what do YOU think of bank robbing sir?” I THINK he got my drift!

  24. Resident Iconoclast June 19, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    If you didn’t like the background check, you’re going to like the false accusation even less.

    If you think I’m even slightly joking, read this: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/john-furlong-sexual-assault-case-thrown-out

  25. anonymous mom June 19, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    I’d be interested in know if all of these background checks have resulted in fewer cases of abuse in schools. Because, schools have been doing background checks on teachers for decades now, and it seems like every week we see 2-3 stories, just in our state, of teachers arrested for sex crimes involving students. Most often it’s high school teachers in their 20s having relationships with underage students. I know these things happened in the past, but I don’t remember them happening with anything near the frequency they now seem to. Background checks are not stopping these situations.

    It also seems like most of the time when these situations do occur, it’s outside of the actual formal school/sport/church setting. Many of these teacher scandals seem to involve outside-of-school contact and lots of online/text interactions. The Jerry Sandusky case involved him having these teens over to his home frequently. Many of the church cases I’ve seen involve informal small groups where an older child is left alone with a group of younger children, again in a home. I think background checks can create a false sense of security so that parents don’t see read flags. “There can’t be anything wrong with this hot 23 year old teacher texting my 15 year old son at all hours of the night and taking him to heavy metal concerts: after all, she passed a background check!” “There’s no questions to be asked about why my daughter’s track coach invites her over to his house two or three times a week–he isn’t a sex offender, so he must be safe!”

    Most schools, day cares, churches, etc. have policies in place that are so stringent that even if a known child molester were to volunteer, they would have no opportunity to harm a child. At my church (which does also do background checks for those who work with children), the nursery policy is that at least two adults–and often it’s three adults and a teen volunteer or two–must be present at all times, and if a child needs to use the bathroom, the parent is paged to bring them. Adults are NEVER to be alone with children, at any point. That’s the norm at every church I’ve attended, and when I was helping a friend develop a children’s program at a church she was starting, I learned that was actually very common practice. Many day care centers (especially if they are not a home day care) and preschools and public schools have similar policies: you will never have an adult alone with a child. So children are actually very safe in these settings, because there is little to no opportunity for abuse, which makes these kind of extensive background checks seem even more ridiculous.

    But, I think we fundamentally misunderstand what most sexual abuse that takes place in these sorts of settings looks like. We think it’s the Little League coach who abuses 8 year olds during practice, or the church nursery worker who abuses 3 year olds in the bathroom, but while cases like that do sometimes happen, they are very rare. Much more common is the female high school assistant basketball coach who spends a lot of time with one of the guys on the team outside of practice and school and they end up partying together and then sleeping together, or the twenty-something youth pastor who starts texting a teen member of the youth group outside of meetings and soon they are having a relationship they absolutely should not be having. Like most sex crimes, these types of abuse are much more likely to be non-forcible statutory offenses than the serial molestation of prepubescent children. And, again, background checks will not work because many of the offenders in these cases are themselves pretty young and do not have a criminal history and give a false sense of security so that parents don’t question interactions that they probably should question.

  26. bluebird of bitterness June 19, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    The rationale for not allowing a married couple to serve together as nursery attendants or Sunday school teachers is that a person cannot be compelled to testify against his/her spouse in court. Some churches are required by their insurers to follow this policy. Some (such as the one I used to attend) also require everyone who volunteers in the nursery or teaches Sunday school or works with children in any other capacity to go through what is euphemistically called a “safe child” training program. I went through it, and it made me livid. It was obviously put together by idiots who consider pretty much any kind of physical contact (with the possible exception of high-fiving) between adults and children as sexual abuse, and it was big on those horrible anonymous snitch lines that have destroyed the lives of so many innocent people and torn so many families apart. If I were prone to conspiracy theories, I’d suspect that that was the object of the game.

  27. anonymous mom June 19, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Also, one year my son attended an inner-city charter school. The school could not get enough volunteers–not even close–because many of the parents (I’d say probably the majority) were either undocumented or had a criminal record. So you end up with the schools that could most use volunteers and the kids who could most use parental involvement unable to do so because parents don’t want to open themselves up to the humiliation and potentially even legal consequences (for those who are undocumented) that a background check might lead to.

  28. anonymous mom June 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    @bluebird, the church children’s program material I looked at was very clear that the ONLY appropriate way to touch a child–if you had to touch them at all–was on the “bony parts of their upper body.” A pat on the head or a brief touch on the shoulder (if the shoulder was covered with a shirt) were the only insurance-approved ways to have physical contact with a kid.

  29. anonymous mom June 19, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    I think a lot of our policies about things like day cares and church nurseries are still based on the Satanic abuse hysteria of the 80s/90s. Nevermind that not a single case turned out to be true, we’re still acting as if Satanic child pornography ringleaders cannot wait to infiltrate our nurseries and kindergartens.

  30. Beanie June 19, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Jill, I like your idea of pushing back by not volunteering. However, I actually believe that our school district does not want volunteers. The teachers do, and the principal does, but the district? Nope. It’s amazing to me the things they attempt to sneak by the parents. If the parents aren’t around–and many aren’t because it’s hard to feel welcome in a school–they won’t know to protest what’s going on.

    I am currently working on finding ways to facilitate the volunteer signup process for parents. Not easy because right now they can’t even tell me who’s currently in charge of it and they won’t have any information about how to renew your badge until the end of July. They were “too busy” to know anything in the spring.

    I am also currently working on getting power for field trip approval handed back to principals instead of the associate superintendent, who denied a traditional walking field trip to the park for two entire grade levels because it was “unsafe.” I heard that from his secretary, because he refused to speak to me. I am hoping that the school board will work with me on a policy clarification. This is one of those issues that most parents had no idea about, even though it affected almost 400 students. If I weren’t there several hours a week, helping teachers and working on PTA projects, I would have had no idea of what the district had done and no one would be fighting it.

    I guess I am trying to work within the system. Maybe after this I can take the fight to the state legislature, the ones who passed the background check law in the first place. I think the decentralization fight is also important though–the higher up in a bureaucracy decisions are made, the less common sense and actual facts are used.

  31. Filioque June 19, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    I absolutely stopped volunteering at school when these background requirements were instituted. Both of my kids were adopted and it was bad enough being treated like a criminal during the process to adopt them; I’m not about to go through it again just to accompany them to the apple orchard or to hand out water balloons on field day.

  32. Warren June 19, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    If any positions ever became mandated reporters, I would quit on the spot.

  33. Beth June 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    “if a child has parents who in fact have criminal backgrounds, the exact child who could probably use a good program like Boy Scouts more than just about anyone, can that child not attend?”

    Not only that, some criminal histories contain only dumb things that someone did in college, for example, or when they were young and stupid, or an OWI 5 years ago. Upstanding citizen since then, but is there a chance their kid can’t be in Scouts, have mom/dad chaperone a field trip? Are they just looking for crimes against kids? Does anyone even ever know what the criteria is for disallowing a classroom volunteer?

    Good point by the person who said none of us had to go through all this to have and parent our own kids!

  34. Esther June 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    Yup – I had the same experience at my son’s school. An email was sent asking for more people to drive the kids for a field day trip. The trip was at risk of being cancelled because there weren’t enough drivers. So I sent an email that I could take a day off from work and drive them. But that did not fly. Since I had not pre-emptively gotten a background check at the start of the year, it was now too late for me to go through the whole process because there wouldn’t be enough time to get me cleared (this was almost 2 weeks before the trip). Thankfully there must have been enough other parents who DID go through all the motions just in case because the trip did take place, but it is absolutely absurd!

  35. WCB June 19, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    This is a sensitive issue for me. I am a practicing Roman Catholic, and it is difficult to speak up about this taboo issue in a Church so deeply and genuinely wounded by it. I’m convinced that Catholics mostly go through the rigmarole of Safe Environment training and background checks as a gesture to help restore much-needed trust.

    I’m glad that people volunteering with children are learning to recognize and report child abuse. But in truth, I worry that all of this red tape is creating an irrational sense of fear and false sense of security.
    Think about it. Background checks on those abusive priests would have come out clean. Fingerprinting helps catch robbers, not prevent child abuse. And it’s naïve to believe that those 1990s video documentaries shown during Safe Environment trainings would have stopped the priests from sexually abusing children. You can’t training-session your way out of pedophilia and institutional corruption.

    There’s a lack of volunteers in the church nursery. I’d love to step up and help. But with my husband’s work schedule and no childcare for *my own* kids, I’m unable to attend the three-hour trainings. Never mind that I am already a licensed social worker and mandated reporter. Never mind that I already attended the training, but it was in another state and therefore “doesn’t count.” Never mind that I already attended the training, but they want you to do it yearly.

    So when I get frantic emails from volunteers needing someone to fill in for them, I have to tell them that my hands are tied. I’m unable to volunteer in a parish desperate for volunteers. Meanwhile, there are 2-3 volunteers in the nursery during a one-hour Mass, and there are already prohibitions about taking children to the bathroom or going anywhere alone with them. Abuse would be really hard to pull off in these circumstances. Also, the minors who volunteer don’t even have to go through the training.

    I don’t have easy answers. But I also don’t think we’re effectively repairing the damage.

  36. Diana June 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    To volunteer at the HIGH SCHOOL in Southern California, I had to:
    -show a negative TB test (must redo every three years)
    -fingerprint scan (I’m guessing it was a criminal check)
    -drug test (submit a urine sample)
    -provide personal references
    -half a day of time to go to the school district office, county ed office, med. office for the urine sample (with a 2 hour wait), not counting the TB test, which requires two visits over what, 3 days?
    -pay $75 for some of the tests (which supposedly could be reimbursed, but I felt like the school was poor enough, so I just paid it).

    For volunteer positions related to the school I’ve also had to:
    -get a livescan (separate fingerprint scan for each volunteer position, about $25 a pop)
    -attend annual child abuse prevention/detection training
    -provide insurance information on my car (with less than minimal liability coverage)

    And yet, I’m still not allowed to be alone in a room with a child or touch them in anyway.

    OTOH, when I volunteered for Destination Imagination, I just signed up. And we used power tools. In my garage. With no other adults around. No one died. No one sued me. All the kids knew my #1 rule. “No Blood”.

  37. Sukiemom June 19, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    I have had to go through a lot of rigamarole to volunteer at my kids school and I hated it. That said, I wanted to let you know of a cautionary tale that happened several years ago when one of my children was in 2nd grade. She wanted to be in Girl scouts and a school mom I knew volunteered to be the scout mom for her school. I went to the first meeting for parents and all was well, although it was weird that the scout mom’s husband seem to be very involved and I thought that was weird. I was not in scouts myself and I just chalked it up to an over-involved parent.

    A few days later I was doing some legal work in my job and I have to sift through arrest records. The husband and scout “father” was arrested the previous week for soliciting a young prostitute. Mmm, I wondered, how did he pass the background check I wondered? It turned out the background check had been done previously to the arrest.

    I went to next meeting and there he was again and the couple talked about an overnight trip. Of course I took my daughter out and informed the group head, who was horrified.

  38. Warren June 19, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Beth,
    Background/police checks here remain confidential. The OPP perform the checks. They review the information contained and issue a letter to the person to take to the school or whomever. All that is in the letter is pass or fail, no specifics.

  39. Suzanne June 19, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    It seems like everything I’m involved with is part of the background check mania. Except my kid’s school (so far but I’m sure that’s subject to change) when they attended public school they used a background check but the private one so far is not using them although they did install a security door this spring, sadly. I continue to volunteer because I know how hard it is to get volunteers (even if they didn’t have to jump through so many hoops) and a lot of the programs and other things the kids are involved with run because of volunteers. What I think is really ridiculous is that thought that a background check will eliminate every many poeple. I would love to know how much volunteerism has decreased due to these checks but when I tried to glean this information a couple of years ago I had a hard time getting responses.

  40. Jeff June 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    I haven’t read through all the comments so apologies if someone already said what I’m about to: in addition to perpetuating the “stranger danger” fear and discouraging volunteering because of the hassle, these policies (like so many others in our society) also say that there are no second chances for those who “fail” the background check. Yes, as Lenore said we need to protect “innocence until proven guilty,” but we also need to understand “innocent if no longer guilty.”

  41. Gary June 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    “I will say that requirements for that volunteer in PA, shown in the original post, is WAY over the top. I would organized a protest.”

    What do you have to hide?

    What are the odds that is the reaction from any and everyone if you tell them you do not want to do it.

    “To volunteer at the HIGH SCHOOL in Southern California, I had to:
    -show a negative TB test (must redo every three years)
    -fingerprint scan (I’m guessing it was a criminal check)
    -drug test (submit a urine sample)
    -provide personal references
    -half a day of time to go to the school district office, county ed office, med. office for the urine sample (with a 2 hour wait), not counting the TB test, which requires two visits over what, 3 days?
    -pay $75 for some of the tests (which supposedly could be reimbursed, but I felt like the school was poor enough, so I just paid it).

    For volunteer positions related to the school I’ve also had to:
    -get a livescan (separate fingerprint scan for each volunteer position, about $25 a pop)
    -attend annual child abuse prevention/detection training
    -provide insurance information on my car (with less than minimal liability coverage)”

    [email protected]#$

  42. Shannon June 19, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    I am so happy to have found this website. I thought I was the only one who finds the endless paperwork and scrutiny for many of these volunteer positions ridiculous. I agree with all of the posters here, but want to add that I think all of this has made some parents overly cautious of other parents. I went to a meeting for my daughter’s cheerleading trip to another state. We were taking a bus and some parents were chaperoning along with the coaches. So we are talking a high ratio of adults to children. We, of course, had to go through the proper paperwork (standard CORI check, no fingerprinting.) So the idea was brought up that, if some of the parents who weren’t chaperoning wanted to ride the bus with us instead of flying, they could do so. One parent immediately piped up, “well they have to be CORI checked too or my daughter isn’t going on that bus!” So now the volunteers AND the accompanying spectators were CORI checked. This parent also asked a ton of questions regarding “who” would be chaperoning (I think she already had some preconceived notions regarding some of the parents in the room.) The meeting left me feeling like I was going to regret this trip.
    The sad thing about all of this is, the more we require people to go through hoops to help out at even the smallest level, the more paranoid people are becoming. Needlessly. The schools, youth groups and insurance companies are telling people they have to be suspicious of everyone.

  43. Sukiemom June 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    Don’t really understand why women have to go through the check. Talked to a security firm manager once and he said that 99 percent of the people who “fail” are men.

  44. Shannon June 19, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    I wanted to add, there are many, many times that people are just attending an event (science fair, baseball games, etc.) Will there come a time when every spectator is going to have to be fingerprinted, as well? Let’s hope not.

  45. Beth June 19, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    But what I’m asking Warren is this: Say I had an arrest and conviction for marijuana possession in college. 10 years later, I’d like to volunteer at my daughter’s school, and I’d like to know if that conviction would eliminate me from volunteer consideration, even though I’ve been 10 years crime-free (yay? lol) I’d like to know if the background checks are only to eliminate people who’ve committed crimes against children, or any crime anywhere ever.

  46. Lindsay June 19, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    I live in PA and work at a public school. Not only do volunteers have to do the above process, but everyone that works at the school has to have all the clearances redone every 3 years, and we have to pay for them all ourselves every time, which just irritates me more. It is all so asinine I can barely stand it.

  47. Susannah June 19, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    I don’t volunteer, for these reasons. It’s ridiculous.

    I also had a run-in with the school over their stupid policy about giving away the kids’ whereabouts. When I had to be at work at 6 am, I had to leave before the kids left for school. I called the school to make sure the kids had not been tardy. (They will refuse to let the kids enter the school unless a parent signs them in, meaning my kids would be locked out of the house for the entire day, as my husband leaves for work as soon as they leave. If they were tardy, I would have needed to high-tail it home to get them in school). The school refused to tell me if they were even there. I pointed out their stupid policy doesn’t make kids any safer. The lady argued with me, but I won- I pointed out the truancy phone call doesn’t go out to parents until 6 pm that day. In the meantime, a potential kidnapper has had upwards of 11 hours to take off with the kids. I told her their policy was security theater. She hung up on me, however, now the phone calls will go out at 8 am for the upcoming school year. However our sons are going to a charter school next year.

  48. Angela June 19, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    I volunteered once a week when my kids were in preschool – no background checks. I haven’t volunteered since then. Mostly the reasoning has been due to my work schedule, but even those few times when I considered taking a day off to go on a field trip with one of my children, the rigamarole wasn’t worth it. I have donated supplies/equipment and I have volunteered at the food bank located in the middle school sans background check, but I always work behind the scenes stocking and such so there is no direct contact with anyone not a volunteer.

    I have had background checks for my current job, but then I have access to lots of personal information including social security numbers. I have been background checked for a previous job where I helped care for minors who were institutionalized for criminal behavior. These background checks I did not object to – they seem perfectly appropriate to me.

    In other news, this morning there was a story of a 6 year old child that was abused by a 14 year old at a park. The news anchors stated that officials did NOT want parents pushing stranger danger onto their children, but instead offer specific advice to children in how to protect themselves – let parents know where you are, team up/go out with friends, make lots of noise if someone is acting inappropriately, etc.. I was pleasantly surprised.

  49. Steve June 19, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    Is this really the Free Range Kids website?

    I see far too many parents willing to jump through the hoops

    …to volunteer….

    jump through hoops to give of their time for free.

    Could it be that these parents feel guilty not spending enough time with their kids at home? Or do they just have an Unnatural Attachment to their little ones? In reality, I think it’s too easy to cave and just go along.

    Until The Majority of parents “Just say no” to background checks – this will only get worse.

    Lenore, perhaps, like your call for parents to take their children to the park and leave them there, you should call for a MONTH of NO VOLUNTEERING to protest this. But you probably wouldn’t do that because everyone would say you wanted to let perverts into the schools.

    But, you know. I don’t think you’d get many parents to protest because they wouldn’t want to be seen as going against the majority.

  50. Sukiemom June 19, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Angela,
    I appreciate your post, especially about the advice to kids on what to do if they are approached by a stranger.

    While I totally believe in the concept of Free Range Kids, I am not naïve. There is danger out there. While is it a small percentage of the population (can’t remember exactly, but between 5-10%) is criminal.
    Criminals think differently than the rest of us and we have to remember that. We don’t keep our kids inside because of this criminal element but we also let them know what to do if they unfortunately encounter it. We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist, or act as if EVERYBODY is a criminal. Balance.

  51. LeAnn June 19, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    We enrolled our kids in a public school for awhile and I was very eager to be involved… at first. On “Meet the Teacher” day there were forms in every room for potential “Room Parents” to fill out, so of course I picked one up, until I realised the entire form consisted of consent for checks of all sorts that the volunteers were required to pay for.

    Granted, the over all cost wasn’t THAT much and if I were determined, we could have managed it. But I live in a small, mostly low income town. I can’t imagine how many parents WANTED to be involved and help out at the school but would have been unable to due to the sheer cost of it.

    On top of that I was angry that it was being done at all. The kids only stayed in that school for two weeks, but it was long enough for me to get the impression, similar to what Beanie said, that parents are very unwelcome in the school and they really don’t WANT us there. I’m sure the teachers do, because every one of them pushed the volunteer forms at us, but the administration, based on every policy, really doesn’t.

  52. MI Dawn June 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    I quit volunteering for this very reason. As a nurse, in NJ, I had to go through a bunch of screening and get fingerprinted ($75 I really didn’t have at the time, to be honest). I worked as a Girl Scout leader for a few years during that time. Then the GS wanted me to be re-printed, fill out all kinds of paperwork yearly. I declined (because my kids weren’t interested any more, anyway, but it did disband the troop). I wanted to give time at the schools, but there were too many hoops to jump through. I’m sorry. I am not a criminal, a sexual molester, a rapist. I will happily give you information once. But not annually. Not quarterly. Not with having to pay for it – my finances are too tight.

    And yes, I think there are a bunch of security companies making a ton of money by making people afraid. I went through a lot less security for my job where I access all kinds of private information.

  53. Beth June 19, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

    That’s unreal. And the thing is, with AEC assault registries, the known criminals are, well known. Don’t exactly need a check. And there is no teat for the havent been caught ye . And it sounds like it will exclude others. If this was the full requirements in Canada I wouldn’t pass cuz my protest history would show up in a cisis check (Canadian FBI/CIA in one). I’d be very dangerous, might in site care if the environment or human rights.

  54. Beth June 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    *typo should say sex assault registries

  55. Maggie June 19, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    These rules really limit volunteerism.

    Working parents who may have time to volunteer 1 day a year aren’t going to do it.

    Working parents who may have more time, say 4 days a year, are losing 2-3 of those days filing out paperwork. Once again, not worth it.

    Stay-at-home parents who have the time to volunteer frequently may not have the money to pay for all the fees.

    So your only hope is to have a stay-at-home parent from a fairly affluent family, who actually wants to volunteer.

    It’s discriminatory in so many ways, and is unlikely to make even one child safer in any given year.

  56. Mrs. H. June 19, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    Yikes! And here I was complaining yesterday that those of us serving at the year-end class party had to wear rubber gloves. Nobody had an answer for why I could bring homemade cheesecake which I had made with my own two bare hands in my unregulated home kitchen but then had to wear gloves to place the very same cheesecake on little Hendrix or Jaxson’s plate.

    I shouldn’t have brought it up. Probably next year they’ll ban homemade cheesecake. Think of the children!!!

  57. JP Merzetti June 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    @Asparagus Freak,

    Wow.
    Accompanied boy scouts? That blows me away.
    The only organization I ever joined – in my entire life.
    All on my own. Which is what sealed the deal. (With parental permission, of course.)

    But this all raises fascinating questions. Just how are people credentialized anyway? Within any community, and for what purposes? As if anything volunteered by anybody, for free, automatically raises the following questions:
    Who are you, really? And why are you really here?
    We either have assumptions of innocence – or assumptions of guilt. There are no hung juries in the picture.
    (And the judge apparently, is taking a nap.)
    By our actions, we are known.
    (And, last time I checked…….trusted.)
    I kinda like how that works.
    Bogus bonafides work for Confidence Men, I suppose………..
    But – volunteers?
    Since when should it be easier to break into Fort Knox (for whatever is rumored to be in there) than to set a foot inside a neighborhood school?

    My credentials presented to enter those hallowed halls used to be the smile on my face and the tunes in my teeth. (And the kids all loved it, when I sat on the edge of the teacher’s desk.)
    I got into big trouble for going 5 minutes overtime. (But, that was for the autograph signing.)
    But who was I, really? The Man from Glad……………….(or, the Dad from Glad……or a Doodad, actually)
    but whatever I was – was something that just never was defined down to a perfectly precise known object.
    Yet the kids themselves – always knew anyway.

    @Jill,

    Yes, I can well imagine it’s an industry unto itself. Profit marginalizing the rest of us into lucrative commodities.

  58. Rob Cunning June 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    I have never really been one to volunteer for things at the schools. I love my own kids, but I’m not really fond of being in charge of other people’s kids. I did chaperon a couple of field trips to amusement parks years ago because I love amusement parks, but found I didn’t have much fun there when I had to keep track of other people’s kids. (My wife, OTOH, will chaperon any and everything if she’s able)

    However, I used to work evenings and weekends with my wife, who works in the technology department of a school district, helping her take inventory of computers and other electronic devices. I quit that when the district suddenly required I pay to be finger printed in order to be allowed to do this, even though I was never on campus at the same time as the kids.

    I am absolutely certain I would never jump through the insane hoops listed here just to volunteer at a school. I understand if nobody volunteers, it’s the kids who ultimately suffer, but I can’t help but think that if everybody took a stand and refused to submit to these ridiculous requirements, the school district would quickly be forced to back off a bit.

  59. James Pollock June 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

    “But what I’m asking Warren is this: Say I had an arrest and conviction for marijuana possession in college. 10 years later, I’d like to volunteer at my daughter’s school, and I’d like to know if that conviction would eliminate me from volunteer consideration, even though I’ve been 10 years crime-free (yay? lol) I’d like to know if the background checks are only to eliminate people who’ve committed crimes against children, or any crime anywhere ever.”

    The answer, of course, is “it depends”. Different groups have different things they’re looking for, and sometimes their requirements change (if they have plenty of volunteers, they can be more choosy, if they’re desperately under-subscribed, anyone not facing a current prosecution might be acceptable.)

    My brush with this came from FIRST Lego League, where I’d been a volunteer for over a decade; last year they had mandatory background checks for the first time. It wasn’t a big deal to do it (maybe 20 minutes of time) but because it was new, I’m sure the volunteer coordinators had a lot of trouble getting people to do it (since they have a LOT of repeat volunteers, and in the past, the volunteer process was more like “sure, I’ll do (assignment) again this year.”

    Some of the local schools have or at least have had a “community service” requirement for graduation, and FLL tournaments were popular with the high-school students who needed to log some community-service hours. (Working at a robotics tournament is way better than roadside beautification). I wonder what happens if one of those kids fails a background check, and thus is unable to volunteer, and thus is ineligible for a HS diploma?

  60. James Pollock June 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    “That’s unreal. And the thing is, with AEC assault registries, the known criminals are, well known. Don’t exactly need a check.”

    That’s just not true, as newspapers well know… They can usually get a good juicy story by running background checks on people who aren’t required to have them, and reporting on how many criminals/registered sex offenders got through (sometimes even WITH background checks). These stories appear regularly.

  61. Katie June 19, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    …And then the schools complain that they don’t have any volunteers.

  62. Emily Morris June 19, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

    I had to do less to license as a teacher. You know, the one with the kids all day.

  63. Yocheved June 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    This seems like a “rich people’s problems” kind of thing. My daughter went to an elementary school that had a huge population of underprivileged kids. Most of her classmates had at least one parent in jail, strung out on drugs, or the child was being raised by elderly grandparents. Either that, or the parents were recent immigrants who spoke no English at all.

    I volunteered every chance I could, and I was never asked for a background check. The school had a policy of needing it done, but they never enforced it because they knew darn well that hardly anyone would pass, and they needed all the help they could get.

  64. chris canada June 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    it s not much different here in Ontario, Canada- I was asked to get a background check for a minimum- wage- job. I never got the ckeck, and still worked there, but just shoes how ridiculous it is…

  65. Ann C. June 19, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    I am unable to volunteer at my kids’ school because I was an idiotic young adult and was arrested for driving an unregistered car. I have a record, and although the intervening 25 years have been without even a parking ticket, I can’t help in the classroom, do lunch duty, go on field trips. I had to fight two appeals to be allowed to attend school plays. All because of a misdemeanor. What I did was wrong, I don’t contest that. But I feel this is a bit overboard. I was able to get licensed to serve as a foster parent despite this (they saw it for what it was: a teenaged mistake), yet the school is inflexible. I am not the dangerous element they are looking for.

  66. Steve June 19, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

    I also refused to fill out the forms. And yet, continued to show up and volunteer. No questions were asked.

  67. Dhewco June 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    I suspect I’d pass all the checks. I’ve never abused or been accused of any crime (child related or otherwise). However, I don’t think I’d pass the reference check. I don’t know a lot of people. I can count my friends on one hand and have fingers left over.

    Another point, I tried to join BB/BS when I was 24 (20 years or so ago) I was turned down for some reason. As I said, I’ve never committed a crime or been accused of it. All I can figure out is that I failed the MMPI (a personality test that I don’t believe is accurate) or one of my references decided that I shouldn’t help a kid and it might cause me to not find a proper girlfriend (I later learned that one of the references didn’t think it was normal that a 24yo single man would want a little brother.) Also, another reference was my girlfriend’s mother…so I have no idea what she said.

    Anyway, my point is that all the background checks in the world won’t protect against a clever enough pervert, and it might just prevent well-meaning introverts from helping. I don’t have any kids and my ex-gf’s kids are all grown, but I miss helping out little-league, boy scouts, and other means. I’d love to volunteer for youth events, being around youngsters really seems to make me feel a decade or more younger. However, single adult males would probably be investigated just for asking. So, I’ll sit frustrated and pray I meet someone and have a passle of my own. (at 40-something, it’s not likely…but it could happen)

  68. Alanna June 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

    It isn’t only volunteers that have to go through this sort of thing. I have been a substitute teacher for Kelly Services for years, and this year, in order to sub in more school districts, I had to drive thirty miles and pay sixty dollars to be fingerprinted. Also, I have been told that if I want to keep subbing next school year, I will have to have another CORI check done. I wasn’t asked to do all of this when I first started subbing years ago. Do they think that somehow I have turned into an ax murdered?

  69. anonymous mom June 19, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    “While is it a small percentage of the population (can’t remember exactly, but between 5-10%) is criminal.
    Criminals think differently than the rest of us and we have to remember that. We don’t keep our kids inside because of this criminal element but we also let them know what to do if they unfortunately encounter it. We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist, or act as if EVERYBODY is a criminal. Balance.”

    I don’t know where you got this information, but in general there is not some group of people who are “criminals” and other people who are not. While I have yet to be able to find solid statistics about how many Americans have a criminal record, it’s high. I know one study found that 40% of men and 20% of women are arrested by age 23. 68 million Americans–about 25% of people–have a criminal record in this country. And, that’s not at all gender-balanced, so it’s very likely that well over a third of men have a criminal record.

    This is because most “criminals” are not people “who think differently than the rest of us.” They are, in fact, US. They are often people who made the same stupid mistakes the rest of us made but got caught for them whereas we didn’t. They are often people who learned from those mistakes and went on to not make them again.

    I don’t doubt there is some percentage–far less than 5-10% of the population–who compulsively or continually engage in criminal behavior. However, most people with a criminal record are regular people like you or me who either got caught doing the illegal stuff that many of us also did (like using drugs, driving after drinking, getting into a fight, or committing one of the three felonies a day that one author claims we commit) or who made a really big mistake at one point in their lives but learned from it. Making a distinction between “criminals” and “the rest of us good people” is not going to get us anywhere good.

  70. Sukiemom June 19, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    Uh, I’m not referring to arrests for weed, I’m talking about felons with multiple arrests. The ones who are constantly in and out of the justice system and yes the are different than the normal population.
    I have family in law enforcement. How about you?

  71. Sukiemom June 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Frankly it’s absurd to believe that 40% of the population who had an arrest while young for drugs or fighting in a bar are a danger to children walking around.

  72. Sukiemom June 19, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    And to say that most people commit 3 felonies a day because some author said so is ridiculous. You are very gullible.

  73. George June 20, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    “Have you ever pled guilty, been convicted or charged with any act of neglecting, abusing, injuring or molesting any child?” “If your answer to any of the above questions is ‘Yes,’ you may not serve at today’s event”

    This was on the form for a district-wide event for AWANA. AWANA is a great organization that my kids are all in and we support, but when looking at volunteering for district-wide event, I found out that I was prohibited because CPS decided to investigate us a couple years back.

    Nevermind that the D.A. finally came around and withdrew the case. Guilty forever because accused once.

    This won’t stop me from supporting AWANA, but it was disturbing and insulting. I wonder how many reasonable, wonderful parents are prohibited from working with their own and other children because of prohibitions like this.

  74. sexhysteria June 20, 2015 at 3:52 am #

    Most sex offenders do not re-offend, and many are even innocent of any kind of contact offense. Background checks may make paranoid indiviuals feel better, since there is no known cure for sex paranoia and sex hysteria.

  75. James Pollock June 20, 2015 at 3:55 am #

    “Most sex offenders do not re-offend, and many are even innocent of any kind of contact offense. ”

    Depends (strongly) on how you define “sex offender”.

  76. Donna June 20, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    “I don’t know where you got this information, but in general there is not some group of people who are “criminals” and other people who are not.”

    There absolutely is. The vast majority of crime in this country is committed by a small handful of people. Yes, anyone can commit a one-off crime and many do, mostly in their youth. However, the vast majority of my clients are frequent fliers. They are in court over and over and over. This is the way they live their entire lives – in and out of the criminal justice system. They started in juvenile court and moved to adult court at 17. It is passed from generation to generation and me simultaneously representing grandfather, father and grandson is not unusual. I left the PDs office 4 years ago now. I can still walk into my old courtroom on any given court day and recognize 90% of the names on the court calendar.

    “This is because most ‘criminals’ are not people ‘who think differently than the rest of us.'”

    Again, they most certainly do. It is not the “criminal mind” that Sukiemom wants to make it. It is the disrupted thought processes caused by the cycle of poverty.

    However, the vast majority of these criminals are not dangerous to you and I. Outside of the occasional armed robbery, mostly of stores, I have NEVER, in over 10 years as a criminal defense attorney, had a stranger-on-stranger violent crime. They happen, but not often. Even most thefts involve unoccupied buildings (closed businesses, unoccupied homes).

  77. Donna June 20, 2015 at 7:52 am #

    ‘”Most sex offenders do not re-offend, and many are even innocent of any kind of contact offense. ‘”

    Depends (strongly) on how you define ‘sex offender’.”

    No it doesn’t. This is the group of our clients least likely to reoffend and the group most likely to not have any prior criminal history. This goes for ANY sex offender. Child molesters, rapists, child porn. At least if you define “reoffend” as commit another sex crime. They will sometimes come back with different crimes and the sex offender registry has created an entire new crime just for them that they frequently run afoul of, but multiple sex crime convictions are the exception and not the norm.

  78. Sukiemom June 20, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    Poverty does not cause crime. There are plenty of poor people who are law-abiding citizens. Certainly the offspring of criminals have both biological and environmental factors that make it more likely for them to commit violent crime as well.
    There is plenty of research on how brains of violent criminals are different than the average person. It’s a fact.

  79. Lori June 20, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    I’ve stopped volunteering in my church. Sadly even our home school group is now required to have teachers in the coop have their clearances. No one seems to mind because, you know, the kids. Recently the costs are being deferrred other than the 10.00 FBI one. It’s frustrating to say the least. A great example of punishing the mases for the behavior of a few. I get looked like a pedophile myself or criminal because I refuse to submit to them. It would be nice to know which government program is benefitting from this.

  80. TorontoMom June 20, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    A whole separate issue with these checks are the folks who get weeded out. As a family lawyer I know many parents (both Moms and Dads) who have been the subject of false domestic violence allegations used to get an upper hand in custody battles. These parents have a record and can never volunteer. I also know several perfectly lovely parents who have something of a “checkered” past (petty theft when they were dumb 19 year olds for example). They are wonderful parents and would make great volunteers but they can’t because they have a record. Or, they don’t know want all the parents at the school to find out about it, so they don’t even bother.

  81. Jan June 20, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    As a resident of Pennsylania and a state employee, yes, this requirement is causing all sorts of hassle. All state employees have to go through this if they have a job that might involve coming into contact with children (so… anything). Just yesterday, I believe, the governor announced he would waive the fees for volunteers (but not the actual checks or the hassles). They’ve also been adding more exemptions to the rule (one of the most contested one is that people who work at Universities are all required because they could potentially work with those under 18. One of the exemptions that I think was passed last week involved exempting school or university workers who do not interact with students or prospective students who are less than 16 years old.

    The whole thing feels like a way to earn revenue. The checks also require you to remember everywhere you have lived, which is not as easy as it sounds for many of us older and mobile people. And the FBI fingerprinting locations are often not conveniently located (I have heard of some companies taking busloads of people to the various locations). And as many have pointed out, these kinds of checks would NOT have actually done anything about Jerry Sandusky. We all also have to go through excessive training every year about how to recognize signs of abuse, report it, etc., which is mildly more useful, I suppose, than having to do a background check.

  82. lollipoplover June 20, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    Paperwork/background checks/FBI clearance for basic, community activism like school volunteering restricts access to schools and erodes trust in communities. Want to keep kids safe from abuse? Educate them to resist and report. Most abuse happens at home, by someone known to the child.

    Strong communities, where citizens know their neighbors and children and strive to keep kids healthy and safe, prevent abuse. I have a vested interest in all of the kids and parents I’ve met and befriended in the 10 years I’ve volunteered at my children’s elementary school. I will always look out for them (and hope their families return the favor). I’ve also picked up on certain individuals that I don’t want around my children, many who would pass all of the above background checks. Paper doesn’t beat scissors. This false sense of security, as if restricting kids to only vetted adults keeps them safe from abusive family members or classmates, harms more than it helps.

    I enjoy volunteering and being involved in my children’s education. But I won’t do it if I’m treated as guilty until proven Background Checked. My 10 years of service and reputation as a good parent love of our school should suffice. Actions speak louder than words. If not, it’s the school’s loss.

  83. Stephanie June 20, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    I left my church because to PICK UP my children I had to show a card that had a number that matched theirs. That didn’t really bother me, but if you lose the card, you have to show “a government issued photo ID ” (their words) and fill out a form. One of my children is 10….can’t a 10 year old correctly identify his parents ? Especially since we’ve attended that church for 12 years and knew the teacher? And my children are in three separate rooms….we only have one card per family, so we have to stand in three lines to get our kids…we used to divide and conquer the pick up line.

    At this same church, when my youngest was little he would run off….and a couple of times out the front door. And all the adults standing there would just let him. So the real danger of a small child in a parking lot is OK but the perceived danger of the wrong pick up is serious….the world is upside-down.

  84. Sukiemom June 20, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    I had a child in middle school when we had heavy rains with high winds. School sent out an alert that parents had to pick up their kids in the car line front of the school instead of letting them walk home. Over 2000 kids went there so you can imagine how long it took. And they would only let one car load at a time. Insanity.

  85. anonymous mom June 20, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    @Donna, yes, much crime is committed by a small minority of people (much smaller than 5-10%) who are repeat offenders. But, a background check is going to pick up not just the people who have basically made a lifestyle out of committing crimes but also the many people who have committed one crime in their life, often when they were in their teens or twenties.

    And that’s what I was objecting to: if by “criminal” we mean “a person with a criminal record” (as opposed to people who basically spend their lives committing crimes) then we’re talking about a large group of people. If it’s true that 25% of the population overall has a criminal record (and if we break that down, given differences in gender and how much more we’ve been prosecuting people in the last few decades, if we were to just look at men under 40 or 45, I’m guessing we’d see a percentage nearing half), then “criminals” include many of our neighbors, friends, and family members.

    I see no indication that these background checks are simply looking for people with multiple felony arrests; for liability reasons, they are likely going to have to deny clearance to anybody with a crime on their record. So the “criminals” being shut out of volunteering at their kids’ schools include a whole lot of people who pose no risk.

  86. Virgilio June 20, 2015 at 11:17 am #

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  87. Sukiemom June 20, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    anonymous mom,
    I challenge you to show me FACTS to back up your claim that considerably less than 5 – 10 percent of the population are repeat felons. I have plenty of statistics to back up mine.

  88. That_Susan June 20, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I’m in Missouri. I did have to fill out a background check form to volunteer in the children’s program at church, but the church covered the cost for it. However, I think I will need to pay the cost for my background check to volunteer at my younger daughter’s school. In contrast, I can help out a lot at my teenager’s school, such as by serving a meal to the kids on the night of a play, or giving kids rides home, without needing a background check.

  89. Jenny Islander June 20, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    The four child molesters I personally knew as a child (two of them got to me, two didn’t) all had squeaky-clean criminal records as far as crimes against children went. Two went to their graves without anybody telling on them and the two who were caught were unsuspected until somebody told. I think the worst thing any of them had done was driving under the influence. They did what they did for years and years before anybody said anything. Background checks could not have caught them or anybody like them.

    I think my church has a very sensible requirement for volunteering with children. You have to sit through a multi-part video series in which convicted child molesters explain exactly how they groomed their victims. After that the good people in the audience know how to spot the bad ones, and the bad ones know that the good ones have been forewarned.

  90. Tabatha June 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    I also live in Pennsylvania, and the school district we now live in requires the same type of clearances. The district we lived in prior to this, about 20 minuets away did not. Our current school is always looking for parent volunteers, begging actually, while the other school had too many parents offering to help. All schools are doing is hurting their relationship with parents. Now we feel like unwanted, uninvited guests at our own children’s schools. I miss the relationship we had with the teachers before, the school staff knew the parents and our children. It was wonderful, and never once did I hear about any parent hurting a child while volunteering. One of my kids favorite events was when once every few months parents would walk freely onto the elementary school (gasp) and have lunch with their kids, now I need my drivers licence scanned if I want to get out of the office. How sad!

  91. Meg June 20, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    My kids’ school has a simple background check form, and you have to give them a copy of your driver’s license. The first year you volunteer you have to watch a training video.
    Honestly, I have zero problems with it. I’m a teacher, and the last thing I want in my classroom is a volunteer who doesn’t understand things like student confidentiality and boundaries. I agree that some of the forms described above are way, way over the top, but a simple check and a training doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

    I also have sympathy with these organizations because I know full well these are risk management policies required by their insurance. I had to help teach a training at our last church. It was creepy and gross and time consuming, but it was either that or lose our insurance and not be able to host children’s programming or the homeless shelter. Imho, if you refuse to volunteer as a result of these hoops you are likely punishing an organization that has ZERO control over them.

  92. Donna June 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Sukiemom – There is a reason that 98% of those who commit crimes qualify for public defenders. Poverty and crime is very much linked. I know it is nice to think you are better than them, but it is really just a matter of circumstance.

    There is a completely different mindset in those caught in the cycle of poverty (poverty passed down through generations as opposed to new poverty or chosen poverty) . An impulsivity, inability to set goals and poor decision-making ability that stem directly from life in poverty. While, yes, some manage to grow up in poverty and not exhibit these traits, most are “new” poverty – ie recent immigrants, people raised middle/working class who slip into poverty – and not those whose family has been mired in poverty for generations. It is also possible, though less likely, to grow up with these traits and not commit crimes.

    I don’t doubt that the brain of criminals is different. We are talking about cause, not result.

  93. anonymous mom June 20, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    “I challenge you to show me FACTS to back up your claim that considerably less than 5 – 10 percent of the population are repeat felons. I have plenty of statistics to back up mine.”

    Great! Can you share the statistics that indicate that 5-10% of the American public are people who repeatedly commit felonies? (We’re not talking, I assume, about 2 drug arrests in their 20s or 2 DUIs, but people who commit the kinds of felonies that make them a threat to the children around them just be being present in the community, as you seemed to indicate.) I’d love to see the research.

  94. Sukiemom June 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    It is just as sensible to say that poor choices can eventually lead to crime which eventually leads to poverty. When people have a rap sheet it is nearly impossible for them to support themselves legally. So if they commit another crime they need a public defender. It makes perfect sense.

    I have known someone for 20 years who was an intelligent person from a solid middle-class home. He had lot of skills, including charm, and went up the ladder until he was making more than $300,000 in a telecom job. Yet he did all sorts of crooked cons on the side, eventually getting caught. Now he’s on food stamps and is using a public defender for one of his cons.

    I have worked with the poor for decades and I have unfailingly been amazed at how many strong and honest people there are in the face of terrible injustices.

    Do I think that they and other honest people are better than career criminals. Sure do.

  95. Daniel June 20, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    Here in the UK the law is
    If you are never unsupervised, are in contact for less than 4 hours a month and are not involved in residential trips no check is needed.

    If you do meet any of the criteria (unsupervised, regular or overnight)
    You have to get a DBS check (disclosure and barring check)
    Fairly simple to get (you need to fill in an online form and provide proof of identity and address, no more onourous than to open a bank account ) .
    Free for volunteers, a fee to pay if you are paid for your time.

    Takes anything from a week to a month to come through
    (can be longer if you have complicated address history)

    It does list all convictions warnings reprimands etc (basically anything more serious than a traffic ticket) and also lists things you were investigated for but not charged….
    It’s not a pass or fail thing (unless you are listed on the official list of people banned from working with children)
    The organisation who requested the check makes the final decision on the basis of risk assessment.
    I am a scout leader and know that for example somone with a teenage caution for drunken shenanigans will not have a problem, somone with a conviction for fraud will not be allowed to handle money for the organisation but will be able to volenteer with kids etc etc

  96. Sukiemom June 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    This Princeton study is one of the best I’ve seen on the subject:

    http://paa2011.princeton.edu/papers/111687

  97. SteveS June 20, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    I belong to a new church. I was asked by the pastor and one of the elders to help develop a policy regarding volunteers for the nursery and the Sunday School. As part of my research, I contacted several insurance companies to help obtain liability insurance. In all cases, the carriers said we needed to conduct some kind of background check, though they seemed to be fairly basic checks.

  98. Buffy June 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    “…. last thing I want in my classroom is a volunteer who doesn’t understand things like student confidentiality and boundaries.”

    Please tell me how on earth the background check procedure listed above in Lenore’s article, or for that matter ANY background check, magically guarantees that a person understands student confidentiality and boundaries?

    Conversely, I’m at a loss to see how committing a crime in your 20’s precludes one, at the age of 38 for example, from having an understanding of student confidentiality and boundaries.

    You got me.

  99. SOA June 20, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    I bet they would wave that for me. I am pretty much demanded by teachers to show up at class parties and field trips. They want me at class parties to make sure my food allergic son does not eat anything that will kill him and they told me I have to go on field trips with my autistic son because they can’t keep up with him. So even though our school does not have such rules, they would probably waive them for me. I get begged to show up.

  100. SOA June 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    I will admit though that sometimes that I have an issue with our school and parent’s volunteering. Some parents are there EVERY SINGLE DAY! They like hang out around the school like its their job. Its annoying. I don’t like it. They need to get a hobby. The teachers have told me they get tired of them being around that much and they agree with me it can be a violation of the student’s privacy. I don’t like random parents seeing my son getting his special accommodations or seeing him have a meltdown. That is none of their business. Especially when there is judgement going around on their part.

    I am fine with parents volunteering one day a week or something, but you don’t need to be in the school that much. I feel like for one thing its not free range to be following your kid around like that everywhere. I try to give my kids space at school and only show up for class parties or field day or field trips or the occasional lunch or volunteer day. Its not every week that is for dang sure. More than maybe 2 days a month at most.

  101. Chuck99 June 20, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    I think a lot of this can be attributed to the mobility of our society. When I was a child, when visiting my grandparents, I often played with the children of people with whom my mom grew up. Now, how many people do you even know on your block? People don’t know each other anymore, so they don’t trust each other anymore, and they somehow decided extreme paranoia was a good alternative.

  102. Dhewco June 20, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    Chuck, you have a point. Since I became an adult, I’ve moved twice. I never reached out to neighbors because I didn’t like ‘bothering’ strangers in their homes. There are/were no community centers in either neighborhood and I have real trouble making friends. The only real friends I had were made at work or church, not my neighborhood.

    It was easy as kids, though. Back then, we hung out with the kids in the neighborhood…in the summer playing late games. Hide -n- seek is more fun after dark. (I’m talking as 10-13yos) It was nothing for the new kid to walk up to a group of kids playing to invite himself in. There was shyness at first (even in the forthright kids), but that was soon overcome in a day.

    Nowadays, a lot of parents have to meet any new kids’ parents. Investigate them by searching the web. Kids are also often over-scheduled so don’t have time to play in the neighborhood. They’re too busy at soccer, karate, or some such. You can’t make neighborhood friends if you’re never in the neighborhood.

    David

  103. Barry Lederman June 21, 2015 at 1:12 am #

    I got a brochure in the mail looking for volunteers for a local Big Brother type program. It seemed like a great thing and I wanted to volunteer. I found it a bizarre contrast how the letter is begging you to help out in this important life changing program; yet the background check process treats you like a criminal. It was so complicated that sadly I decided not to bother.

    PS. Loved the spidey sense reference Lenore.

  104. Donna June 21, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    Sukiemom-

    Your insight is laughable. While I am sure that they exist in the systems in minuscule numbers, not a single one of my clients comes from a $300,000 upbringing. My clients’ families largely came here as slaves and they have never risen higher than that in terms of money. I can count on my fingers the ones who actually stood some chance of never going to prison. The remainder were predestined from birth. But you go on believing that it is just flawed people and not the cycle of poverty that is the problem. Apparently some like you enjoy locking up millions of people with no hope of that ever changing because you refuse to address the real issues that cause it.

    There have been countless studies showing the effect of poverty on the brain. Studies that prove that it is the cycle of poverty that causes crime, not crime that causes the cycle of poverty. Studies showing the decline in thought processes after just one generation in poverty.

    Yes, people manage to pull out of this cycle. We should look to them as the oddities that they are to see what it is that they had that enabled them to succeed when so many millions of other fail and how we can get that to others and not just lord it over the heads of those millions of others while insisting that they should be able to succeed just because John did and that they must be personal failures without understanding the herculean effort that it actually took for John to succeed.

    You want to make all repeat criminals out to be evil, violent gangbangers. That is a very small portion of my clientele. Even the gangbangers aren’t as evil and immoral as you want to make them for the most part. Most, albeit definitely not all, are just like you and I. They love their families and want to do better. They simply have huge strikes against them in life before they ever commit their first crime. All are extremely poor – not what middle class American thinks of as poor, but actual poverty. They were raised in dysfunctional/chaotic homes. The majority are of low intelligence. Many suffer from mental illness. Many suffer from addiction issues that leads to other criminal behavior. These two groups are generally one and the same. And once they get caught up in the system, it is almost impossible for them to get out because the probation/parole/court system is set up to make poor people fail.

  105. Sukiemom June 21, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    You know Donna, I find you to be pitiable. You are a very angry person, probably because you know deep down that you are responsible for letting people out on the streets that have gone on to kill or harm others. You justify the corners you have to cut by pretending that people have no choices.
    There are always choices. You know it as well.
    It’s sad when people such as yourself dehumanize other groups of people by saying they are incapable of anything better than what they are right now. Prison ministries show this to be false.
    There are many strikes against people who have a tough upbringing. But it is not hopeless. But if that is the way you sleep better at night — to pretend that these people don’t have any choices — so be it.

  106. SOA June 21, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I did Big Sister program about 10 years ago and it was not that hard to get in. They came to the house to interview me and I think I had to provide a reference or something. It was really not that hard if I recall. I wonder if they are stricter now? I did not have to get fingerprinted or background checks or anything like that that I know of.

    When I got a job as a substitute teacher and at a daycare though I was fingerprinted and had to pay for it myself for the sub job. They may have done a background check but they paid for it.

    I don’t particularly like my fingerprints being in the system because normally you have to be arrested for that to happen and I have never been arrested. But whatever.

  107. Dhewco June 21, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    SOA, I had to do all that and more 20 years ago. Maybe it’s different in your part of the country. I had a background check, my 4 references had to fill out several pages of a questionaire about me and their knowledge of my personality. And, there was a complicated MMPI personailty test. Also, they interviewed my parents (I was still at home then.)

    Either something in their personality test, my references, or the woman in charge not liking me made BB/BS decide I wasn’t eligible. Theirs, and a potential little brother’s loss. (And mine, of course)

  108. Sukiemom June 21, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    One more thing, Donna. I have been a guardian ad litem to parents that have justified to me their raping and starving their children (while they ate well) because of their poverty and upbringing. Yeah.

  109. Sukiemom June 21, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    Donna, I want to apologize for my last two responses to you. I was upset because it seemed to me that you had deliberately manipulated what I had said about choices.
    Anyway, I want to walk back my words. They were wrong and malicious.

  110. SOA June 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Makes me wonder if they have higher standards for the Big Brothers than the Big Sisters? Because I hardly had to do anything to get picked. Mostly just the interview at my home.

  111. Dhewco June 21, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

    Could be. After all, I was that most terrifying of beasts, a young single male with an interest in being a ‘big brother’. There must be something wrong for a 24 yo male to want to spend time with a kid not related to him.

  112. scp June 22, 2015 at 1:56 am #

    Anyone who visits a classroom in my child’s Pennsylvania public school during the school day needs to pass a background check. I didn’t volunteer before, but this annoyance will deter me from ever offering to volunteer in the future.

  113. Emily June 22, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    @SCP–Anyone who VISITS A CLASSROOM in Pennsylvania needs to pass a background check? What if you’re just dropping off some cupcakes for your child’s birthday? What if the school calls you because your child got sick or injured (beyond a minor bump or scrape), or had a bathroom accident at school, and needs to go home early? What about the “parent in the military coming to the child’s classroom as a surprise as soon as their plane lands in their hometown” scenario? What about parent-and-teacher conferences? Do these background checks have to be re-done every year? Getting a background check takes time, and if submitting the receipt to show that you applied isn’t good enough, then that pretty much precludes setting foot in your child’s classroom until Halloween or so. I mean, yes, you could get it done over the summer, but usually, if the school funds the background checks, there might not be anyone available in the office to give you the form for that over the summer. If you do it at the end of the previous year, you might get the run-around because everyone’s too busy with report cards and whatnot. Also, it seems kind of hypocritical–I mean, the parents are trusting the school system to educate their kids, no questions asked, but the school won’t trust the parents enough to let them into the classroom, where they educate said kids, without a background check.

  114. Derek June 22, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    Some sports organizations are also taking this to extremes. Volunteers for ice hockey penalty box duty must now pass background checks for the program my daughter is in.

    Yes, there is fear that a parent might molest someone’s daughter in a hockey penalty box… during a game.

  115. Emily June 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    @Derek–What does “penalty box duty” entail? Does the penalty box have to be supervised now as well? That seems a bit much.

  116. Derek June 22, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Someone on penalty box duty just has to open and close the penalty box door. That’s it.

  117. MQ June 22, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

    I’m in my 21st year of teaching and my 9th year in my current public school. This year I’m being required to get fingerprinted as part of the school’s regular background checks, and I have to pay for it myself: $55. I have no guarantee that the company making money hand over fist to store my data, will succeed in storing it securely.