It’s no surprise that numerous school districts around the nation require background checks and even fingerprinting before working there. The Kalispell Public School District of Montana is one of them. Staff members ranging from teachers to maintenance workers to bus drivers must be thoroughly checked before they can be employed in this district. However, until now, volunteer positions had been exempt from these measures.
This is about to change. The Kalispell School District and many others like it are raising their standards; now, even non-paid volunteer positions will require volunteer background checks. The new policy for Kalispell was enacted after some of their staff participated in a Department of Justice (DOJ) workshop where school safety was a primary topic.
Volunteer background checks can include criminal background checks as well as whether or not a person is a registered sex offender. While a great number of school districts have background check policies for paid employees, many exempted volunteers. The Kalispell District and others are now expanding their policies to screen volunteers as well.
The goal of all background checks, of course, is safe schools that provide an environment conducive to learning and success for all students. Background checks for anyone who will be around children are crucial.
The Kalispell Public School District has decided that volunteer background checks will be on an individual basis, depending upon the volunteer’s duties. Specific volunteer role is a valid consideration in terms of volunteer background checks, with the main factor being the proximity they would have with children. Tutors, coaches and mentors would require more background screening, while a classroom parent-helper who is always under teacher supervision may require less background screening.
The district will determine which kind of background check is appropriate for each particular situation; it may include an FBI check, which includes being fingerprinted. Another type is a name search that can find details about an individual’s criminal history within the state. Most background checks also screen for the applicant’s presence on the national sex offender registry.
The Kalispell Public School District reports that their new policy was not enacted due to a specific incident; they are just being proactive, choosing to be safe rather than sorry. It’s very likely that many other conscientious school systems will follow suit and require volunteer background checks.