Free-Range Kids Outrage of the Week! (Hint: Mom not allowed at school party)

Hi Readers –

I’m thinking of starting a new feature, Free-Range Kids Outrage of the Month (Or Maybe Even Week). Like that idea? Let me know. And send outrages!

Meantime, here is Outrage #1, sent by a reader in suburban Texas. This is a note from the local public grammar school about a holiday party:

“Our Winter Holiday parties will be Friday, December 19, with K-2 celebrating from 1:00-1:45 and grades 3-5 will celebrate from 2:00-2:45 … Please remember that each adult attending the party must have a volunteer background check completed and reported. If you have not completed this process please do this immediately.

 That’s right – you need a background check to ATTEND YOUR CHILD’S CLASS PARTY.  One woman apologized on the neighborhood’s message board for not being able to help out at her daughter’s kindergarten shindig. And why was that?

 “By the time I decided to go, there was not enough time for the school to do a background check on me. And their policy is if you want to be a volunteer, you have to go through the background check, it usually takes two weeks. The teacher told me I could still go to the party, but I cannot help or interact with any children except my own. I was supposed to just stand back and watch.”

 Clearly, even if you are the mother of a child in the class, you are out to molest all the other students (in public) and cannot so much as hand them a cupcake, you disgusting perv.

Great message to send kindergarteners: Most adults are out to get you! There isn’t just ONE boogey man. There are about 27 per classroom! Or actually, about 54, since moms and dads are BOTH suspect!

Now kids, no long faces! Throw out your paper plates and go make a maximum security prison with your blocks. That’s where most mommies and daddies belong.  

— Lenore

110 Responses

  1. That is completely insane. Words fail me.

  2. Great new feature. I’m sure (unfortunately) there will be plenty more to come.

    Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

  3. That is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have EVER heard of.

  4. its probably an insurance requirement.

  5. I… I… I…… I don’t… what the hell?

  6. Everyone who works/volunteers with children in UK now has to have a CRB (enhanced) check to make sure they have no child abuse record.

    http://www.crb.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=308

    The irony is of course that many of those who do abuse have never been caught and so childre are not protected from them.

    As a supply (substitute) teacher. I have t have a separate one for each teaching agency I work for.

  7. There is a reason I don’t volunteer at my kids’ high school (affluent rural neighborhood, no less).

    I have to sign my life away at the door, wear an ID, and go through the stupid background check thing.

    So I just don’t.

  8. How much longer before the children themselves need to get background checks…

    Got to protect them from eachother!

  9. Our public school requires you to watch a video about abuse AND go through a background check before volunteer, but even more outrageous, EVERY parent that walks through the door during school hours has to have theri drivers license scanned and if you have any sort of criminal background you will not be permitted to enter the school for any reason. Hows that for paranoid??

    At the private (catholic) school my older dd attends all parent volunteers must attend a two hour meeting, watch a training video, have a background check done, and have three references completed and sent back directly to the school. My husband and I were not allowed to volunteer this past year since not all of our references came back (relying on other people to do this can cause real trouble!). We can try again next year, but then have to go through the whole process from the start, again. sigh. It’s no wonder parents don’t bother volunteering any more.

  10. My kids go to a Catholic school. We are very paranoid parents sending our kids to an even more paranoid educational system. Even though all volunteers have to have background checks and training in “Protecting God’s Children” (that includes field trip drivers and chaperones), we don’t require such a thing for class parties. The teacher will be in the room the whole time, for gosh sakes! What does the school think will happen? The adults will use the opportunity to groom victims or something? Please. Remember, we’re paranoid, and our principal says that as long as another trained adult is always present, untrained people can be there. And we’re SURE someone’s out to get our kids. If we can do it, so can a public school. Really.

    Actually, I wonder if there are any laws protecting legal guardians who want access to their children during the school day that might apply here…

  11. Our school district requires this as well. One time my mother was in town for a surprise visit and was not allowed to go to my son’s party because she had not gone through the background check….EVEN THOUGH SHE IS A TEACHER AT ANOTHER SCHOOL DISTRICT (and had her ID saying such with her).

    Outrageous.

  12. That’s great!!!! No child molestors in that class!!!!

  13. Oh good god

  14. I just have to wonder, with school budgets being slashed, programs being cut, teachers being laid off, etc., how they have the $$$ to pay for all these background checks and security measures? I guess it’s better for your child to be safe from all possible risk than to receive a quality education. Sigh.

  15. good grief! i just can’t even find words (odd, for me). what will the schools do when there are no more parents willing to jump through the hoops to help out?

  16. This is actually a good idea, and I don’t think they’re trying to weed out molesters or anything as sensational as this. Back when I worked at my mother’s day care center, it was a a weekly event that a parent would show up and try to pick up their kid. Of course, the kid would be happy to see their parent and want to go home with them.

    The only problem? that particular parent didn’t have custody of the child, and in some cases had a restraining order placed against them. We usually weren’t notified of the restraining order by the police, though usually the custodial parent would have mentioned something. All we usually had to go on was the approved pick up list, and I don’t know if any public education schools have that kind of setup.

    I’m all for making sure that whoever’s in the room with the kids legally has a right to be there.

  17. that is outrageous. It bothers me when DD comes home complaining that she was not allowed to play on the black top because it was wet a teeny weensy bit. But is the school systems alone to be blamed or is it the sue happy society that needs to take the bulk of the blame? But for the overprotected coddled western world this sort of thing is probably unheard of.

  18. That is beyond outrageous. I am shocked that is actually happening.

  19. My kids go to a Catholic school and that’s how it works here. You have to do Virtus training to be able to volunteer at anything that may involve the children. I looked into doing the training last year and it was a 3 hour course at night (7-10pm) and was only held twice at our school at the beginning of the year. That includes a comprehensive background check. If you don’t complete it you can’t even come into the school to visit at lunch, attend parties, go on field trips. That includes after school and weekend activities. I just got a note about volunteering during the summer (to reduce the cost of our tuition) and it was for Sunday bingo but you still had to be Virtus trained to participate even though it is going to be little old ladies for the most part.
    I’ve never volunteered at their school and they’ve gone there for 2 years. It’s too much of a pain. They tack on an extra $200 in tuition for that. ($100 per hour/20 hours required each year). I can’t even volunteer for their Girl Scout troops because it meets at the school and I have to have the training to interact with the students on the school grounds.

  20. I think this is absurd (what, exactly, do they expect to happen?). My daughter’s school (perfectly ordinary public JK-8 school) also, I think, requires some kind of background check for certain types of classroom and field-trip volunteer gigs, but as I work full-time and can’t really volunteer anyway, I don’t know what the process actually involves. Whatever it is it’s mandated at the school-district level — individual schools don’t decide these things.

    However … I’m also not sure I understand why parents want to go to a class party. Class parties certainly never involved parents when I was a child — we would have regarded the presence of parents as seriously cramping our style.

  21. Disgusting. What the hell is the human race coming to? My goodness, why even bother to have kids in the first place. I think everyone should just get sterilized so we can put this garbage to rest… after all, we don’t deserve to breed if this is the pinnacle of our “intelligence.”

    My children’s school requires a background check only if you’re driving kids to field trips – but it’s still old fashioned (thank goodness) when it comes to people walking into the building (they ask that you check in at the office).

    This… this kind of garbage would be enough to have me looking for another school to send my kids.

    @Sylvia: Parents who help out are the ones that would want to go, I’d assume. Also, some kids ask their parents to come at that age. My son always wants us to show up at his functions (1st grader). So, it just depends.

  22. yes, I think this is sad and unfortunate, but here’s another take: if you’re the school district staff, and you *don’t* have this background-check requirement, what do you think happens? Do you get patted on the back for encouraging parent participation? Or do you get threatening memos from the legal dept. — or even threatening calls from other parents! — saying that if anything at all goes wrong you’ll be fired or sued or both?

    When was the last time any of us went to a school-board meeting and said, “back off on the playground rules, the volunteer checks, the approved-pickup lists, the no-tolerance-for-nail-files rules, and the only-wrapped-food ideas.”? It would take an awful lot of conversations like that to make a difference, but we won’t ever achieve “awful lot” if we don’t ever contribute the “first” and “second” and “third”.

    Raising free-range kids also means encouraging our adult peers to think responsibly, give slack, and stop trying to find someone to blame or sue for anything they don’t like.

  23. I could go on and on about why I homeschool my kids. Truth be told, I just could not deal with the B.S. adults in school systems (or other government agencies) can delve out. Way more than I can muster. I’m not anti-government, I’m just anti-stupidity. Stupidity is so rampant, that sometimes I think there is something seriously wrong with me!

  24. Actually, most schools DO have an approved pick up list. Anytime I enrolled my kids in school or in a day camp program, I had to provide a list of 3 people who were authorized to pick up my kids. I even was able to write down a people who absolutely under no circumstanced could pick them up if I needed to. If you have a restraining order against someone don’t you think you should make sure that the school knows this? This is more effective than making every single adult do a background check. That’s ridiculous, a waste of everyone’s time and resources and utter nonsense.

  25. Texas Teacher here with several comments

    1. The school violated the law. Parents have the right to observe their child’s class at anytime except TAKS tests and finals.

    2. Some parents must be accompanied by an administrator or cop because they have been convicted of crimes against children or have attacked staff members. Still they must be allowed access to their child’s classroom unless A) they lose parental right or have them restricted B) someone on campus has a TRO or RO against them.

    I wonder if something related to number 2 was going on at this campus and they used the rule to get rid of a problem parent.

  26. To Shannon @ 2:46 am : How do schools afford the background checks? Easily! In our district, the parents have to pay for their own checks.

  27. Raising free-range kids also means encouraging our adult peers to think responsibly, give slack, and stop trying to find someone to blame or sue for anything they don’t like.
    That’s the thing, right there. It’s up to US as the parents to do that talking to our peers and the school board. Noone else is going to do it for us.

  28. I recently got my home licensed as a home day-care through my state – Massachusetts. My initial application was rejected outright because my husband failed the required criminal background check. The reason: he was arrested 22 years ago. The charges were dropped a few days later and he was never convicted of any crime.

    The state required me to fill out a lengthy appeal form that took six months to process, explaining why I did not feel that his criminal background posed a threat to the children in my care. I guess I could have pointed out that he’s not home during the day, or has had no run-ins with the law since that time, or is a Fine Upstanding Citizen, but I chose to spend my allotted page space focusing on the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty, and being arrested does not de facto make a person a criminal.

    Happily, our local State Rep got involved and agreed with me. It’s nice that there is some sanity left in government.

  29. I volunteer on a weekly basis at my son’s public school in So.Cal.. The school district requires background checks, including full fingerprinting, for anyone (including volunteers/teachers/admin) who has a certain # of hours spent on campus with students.

    Because I volunteer weekly, I had to be fingerprinted and my background was checked. Just like the teachers/employees of the district, I carry a photo badge when I’m on campus.

    I don’t think it’s a big deal at all…especially since the background check requirements are NOT applied if you are an occasional volunteer, or a parent visiting the classroom.
    So for the mom in the article above, there would be no background check requirement since she’s a parent.

    We still have plenty of occasional volunteers who carry temporary ‘badges’…I think if you have less than 10 hrs of volunteer time on campus, you don’t need to be checked.

    The policy of our district makes sense to me. The policy of the district in the article? Not so much…and I’d be upset if that’s how our district worked.

    BTW we volunteers were responsible for paying for our own background checks and fingerprinting costs. It was about $50, but once it’s done you don’t have to do it again.

  30. This is the same kind of nonsense as zero tolerance. The understandable desire of schools to protect themselves from liability leads to the inability to make the simplest distinctions imaginable — such as the distinction between an adult spending large amounts of time with children, without other supervision, and adult showing up in a room along with a bunch of other adults doing the same thing for a half hour and eating cupcakes with the kids. I recently heard a similar story from a friend who was helping out at her church’s summer camp — she had to go through a background check to help serve lunch. Doesn’t a group lunch usually take place in a large room full of a mixture of children and adults? If they simply insisted that only the certified people could take the kids to the bathroom or whatever, that would make sense (from a liability POV at least.) But making every person go through a check who spends any time whatsoever at any event involving children is madness.

    Besides, I wonder if they make all the kids go through background checks? A lot of abuse of young children in institutional settings (schools, churches, etc.) happens at the hands of older, previously abused children.

  31. Holy cow! I’ve never heard of such a thing! Around here, parents are more than welcome to help out. I understand being cautious with strangers, but the other parents?

  32. I was shocked to get a background check paper with my son’s kindergarten paperwork last year. The schools here require a background check on every adult (parent, grandparent, mentor, sub teacher, coach, den leader, whoever) who enters the school and volunteers/interacts with the children. This includes if you want to go along to help on the field trips. Most people just do it at the beginning of the school year ‘just in case’ they decide to do somethign with the school during the year.

    They do make it pretty painless, though… it takes all of 5 minutes to complete the form for both parents and we just stick it in the child’s backpack folder to return to school and forget about it. The school does all the work and even pays for it. Still kinda crazy if you ask me.

  33. I homeschool, unschool really. I don’t see how you can both be free and go to school. This crazy schooling system we have was started during the Industrial Revolution to create workers for factories. Enough said.

  34. Since entering the witness protection program, it’s been very difficult to be an effective volunteer at my children’s school. Of course, I had to explain to the principal what redacted means after my dossier was left by Federal agents at the school.

    But we learn to deal with reality as we find it. I, for one, am not sure that a cavity search is entirely necessary when dropping off forgotten homework, but if it makes life safer for junior, then it’s all worth it. After all, who knows what dangers lurk in leafy suburb?

    Of course, I was a little concerned when my son’s third grade lessons started including phrases like “thought control is good.” And the story about the boy and girl who were sent to the gulag because they used real sugar in the lemonade they were selling instead of the more healthful Agave syrup did make me miss “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”

    But these are perilous times. Perilous times indeed. Hugging is outlawed. Touching is verboten. Somewhere Ray Bradbury is wondering whether or not this was some story he wrote come horrifyingly to life.

  35. For what it’s worth, I’m attending teacher’s college in the fall and will be doing placement in two different classrooms, grades four through 10. (Remember, I’m in Canada, eh?) In order to do that I had to get a police background check. It cost me 30$ and I got a card that IDs me as safe to be around the kids in my classes. I’ll have to get another one done, a more permanent one, when I’m fully certified.

    For regular visitors to the classroom, teachers, counsellors, volunteers, a background check is a very good idea. However, a parent who’s just coming into the classroom to help out with the kids while the teacher is there, as in the story above from Texas, should definitely NOT have to do one. It’s ridiculous.

  36. Just one more way in which “The State” is acquiring dominion over OUR children.

  37. I laughed at the insanity of it, and at the same time it made me wonder that if the majority of people out there (worldwide) think this IS insanity then why is there such a huge trend for such behavour to be enforced?

  38. Background checks are required at our school (here in TX — same school, maybe?) for class parties and such. It’s a very simple on-line process and is done in minutes.

    On party days, there are a couple of staff members at the front door with a current list. If your background check isn’t current, you can go in the office and they’ll run it through the computer for you. The biggest hassle for me has been standing in line. Thank goodness for my iPhone. I did the background check and showed them the approval screen in a matter of minutes.

    I’m sure a few people have run into snags, but it’s always been a breeze for me. In my area there are a lot of non-traditional families, so it’s easier on the teachers to have the official background checks than for them to try to figure out who can and can’t be there for the party (while they’re trying to run the party and corral excited kids at the same time).

    The teachers use their brains, too. Once they get to know the parents who pick up and volunteer and such, they go back and check the forms only for an unusual visitor.

    I think teachers have enough on their plates without having to worry about who is in their classroom and if they’re supposed to be there or not.

    BTW, it has NEVER been emphasized to the children that a background check is necessary. It is sent home on parent paperwork and on newsletters, but not told to the kids directly, so I don’t see it scaring them.

    Lenore — saw you mentioned in Lisa Belkin’s article “Let the Kid Be” – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/magazine/31wwln-lede-t.html?_r=2

  39. Wow crazy crazy. I would be amazed if our public school started doing this. We barely get enough volunteers for any event – this would guarantee we would get next to none.

  40. Laffin’ at all the Catholic schools making the parents have background checks. It’s not the parents you have to watch out for there, is it?

  41. Well, someone already beat me to it. I was going to ask whether or not the children need back ground checks to attend school.

    Actually, that might not be a bad idea for high schools. There were quite a few sex incidents and shootings at my old high school. Now they have full time security guards and metal detectors and bags must be see-through. This is for the students- not the teachers.

  42. Oooh. Another question. If the background check reveals the parent is an illegal alien (undocumented immigrant, whatever you want to call it) will the school call the border patrol? I mean seriously, what is the school going to do in a situation like this? They had better call the BP!

  43. To Rob C.

    I’m Catholic and your comment is hilarious!!! Thanks for making me laugh today!

  44. My school holds the same policy. I have to be fingerprinted, photographed, and have a background check before I can attend anything. This, along with “terroist drills”, is absolutely destroying our kids. I truly see why more and more parents home school.

    If I was sure I wouldn’t want to lock my kids in a closet with a piece of cheese and a bottle of water after a few days, I would home school too – but I pay good tax dollars for a great school district and I’m peeved about these laws.

  45. AV, I don’t know about Texas, but in NYC the schools aren’t allowed to disclose a child or parent’s immigrant status to the authorities. The idea is that since these children are already *here* (and many of them were born here, making them citizens) they have a right to an education, which they won’t get if their parents are scared to send them to school.

  46. Great way to encourage parental involvement.

  47. A BACKGROUND CHECK for parent volunteers at a school kids party?

    Is that school run by a former East German Stasi agent or something?

    That is totally nuts!

  48. This is how the girl scouts operate, too. If I want to go on trips with the troop, they have to have a background check done on me, too.

    I agree to a point – but I think class parties is a bit of an overkill.

    However, before my daughter was in school, she wasn’t allowed to come to any of my boy’s class parties because siblings weren’t allowed. That was really frustrating to work around – let me tell you.

  49. I am….speechless… nothing. I’ve got nothing for that one!
    Sarah M

  50. I love the “Outrage of the Week” idea! I have one I’ll send you soon.

    At my kid’s school, parents have to do background checks at the beginning of the year. Because the school is a public entity and it’s for volunteer purposes, I believe WA State does it for free (though ultimately our taxpayer $$ cover the state’s costs).

    But then at my kid’s school, volunteer parents drive groups of kids on field trips in their personal vehicles, because the school doesn’t have the funding to pay for a bus driver during the day (yes, the district “charges” individual schools for field trip buses). That seems to be a much bigger liability, given car crash stats.

  51. Attitudes like the one expressed by RobC are exactly why we are in this situation in the first place, as far as the Catholic schools go. Children are at no higher risk from Catholic priests than they are from teachers, Baptist ministers, soccer coaches, etc. And they are at much less risk from priests than they are from family members and friends of the family (who statistically are the highest group of molesters).

    However, there was a strong media blitz over the clergy abuse scandal and some very high profile expensive law suits that have resulted in wide spread changes on the part of the Catholic church. Each diocese has enacted multiple policies to protect children from abuse. The problem is that our society reacted to the clergy abuse by accusing the entire Church of being guilty and by being prejudiced against all priests, rather than the few who committed the crimes or were involved in coverups. Now, the Church has to do a lot more to protect themselves.

    It is a sad world. We know many priests and they have been treated very differently because of the bad actions of a few. This only gets reinforced by comments like the one made by RobC. Personally, I do not find it funny at all. And I don’t think any of us find the results of this funny either. It is ridiculous that some of these policies are in place. The insurance companies are dictating very stringent rules within the Catholic church (and other entities) as a backlash because of the high payouts that have happened in these lawsuits. Many of these rules and policies defy common sense. And the priests are often just as frustrated as the parents are, but their hands are tied.

    Now, the parents are getting a taste of what it is like to be a priest in our time where it is popular and acceptable to make statements and nudge nudge wink wink about “you know those Catholic priests and what pervs they are”. Well, now we are seeing how “those parents cannot be trusted in an open classroom under supervision with the kids because you never know what pervs lurk in the room.” This has really gotten out of control. Have a little empathy toward the thousands of innocent priests and realize that percentage wise more priests are innocent than parents.

  52. Yea…. grandma is always welcome to drop in our homeschool. We also play with toy guns, hug each other, go to the bathroom when we need to, eat when we’re hungry, (drink when we’re dry!), and fun things like that. And go outside when we need to run…

  53. Our school system requires every volunteer, no matter what the activity, to be CORI-ed. Which means a background check from the police department to see what your arrest record looks like.

    I have never volunteered. Not once. Because I find that to be such an invasion of privacy and such a totally STUPID rule that I just won’t follow it despite the fact that I have no arrest record.

  54. This is what happens when lawsuits rule the world.

    At my daughter’s school (public K-6) they would like to add a swingset to the 5th/6th grade playground. Know why they don’t? It will cost over $15,000! Why? Because it has to be surrounded by special “safety” flooring stuff. Can’t have the tweens hurting them selves while they swing. I mean, my goodness, what would happen if they fell off?! Sheesh. I just wish they would come out and say, “Well, it’s not really about your child’s safety it’s really about us not getting sued.” At least it would be honest.

  55. @Pete Gaughn: That’s it! That is what we must do! Schools do change when parents take a stand. Our school district decided that the ’09-’10 school year would begin before Labor Day…when it has been after Labor Day for years…just about a month ago…and too late for people to change summer plans. Parents made a huge fuss and now school will start after Labor Day as usual. I think freerange issues are more important than vacation schedules, but it is good to know that when parents take action, changes happen. We need to help our school districts stop reacting mindlessly to possible litigation issues. We need to help schools and communities return to normal! Let’s all help Lenore jumpstart a concrete movement for change. (PS Richard Louve’s book addresses this issue.)

  56. @Silvermine…I work with homeschooling families and it…just…makes….sense!!!! Everything else just seems a little bit crazy.

  57. KW – “The problem is that our society reacted to the clergy abuse by accusing the entire Church of being guilty…”

    Well, y’see, that’s because they were. The orders to cover it up, and to threaten the families of the victims into silence (because it was more important to protect the Church, apparently, than to protect innocent children), came from Joseph Ratzinger himself.

    No, back to the topic (sorry Lenore) – so, parents are required to have background checks before they can be in a crowded room with other people’s children, but they’re free to take their own children back to an empty home, even though statistically children are much more likely to be abused at home by their own parent rather than at a crowded school function by somebody else’s.

    That is quite literally insane.

  58. I am so glad my kids are in college and I don’t have to deal with this craziness. This is insane. Before 9/11 parents didn’t even have to show ID when we entered the school. After that, the only change was showing ID. I never heard of something as crazy as background checks on parents. This is really too extreme.

  59. […] Free-Range Kids Outrage of the Week! (Hint: Mom not allowed at school party) Hi Readers – I’m thinking of starting a new feature, Free-Range Kids Outrage of the Month (Or Maybe Even Week). […] […]

  60. RobC, The Catholic church is a huge entity. There are vastly more innocent Catholic clergy and officials than guilty ones. The entire Church was not guilty. The entire Church was not charged with the crimes, nor could it be. That would not have held up in a court of law. And yet, here on this forum, you have tried and found guilty the entire Church.

    One of the things I love about Free Range Kids is the way ignorant beliefs about safety and children are corrected. I will maintain that children are as safe with priests as they are with teachers, coaches, scout leaders, clergy of different religions, etc. And again, the bad actions of a few should not be held against the thousands who are innocent.

  61. Because of what happened with the Catholic Church recently and the huge pay outs to victims as a result, insurance premiums that cover this have sky rocketed. And requirements to have those policies are stricter as well. At our church anyone who works with children on regular basis, i e Sunday school teachers, has to have a background check. I imagine schools have the same issues. These policies are necessary to being open, so while it seems crazy, it is the unfortunate result of these changes.

  62. Wow.
    Was there a big upswing in homeroom mothers kidnapping and molesting little Susie whilst delivering cupcakes for the monthly birthday party while I was not paying attention?

    Crazy, crazy and did I say crazy.
    This kind of BS is exactly why we decided to homeschool. I’ve spent 13 years NOT fighting with our local schools over rules and regulations.
    I’m always amazed at what folks put up with because the school district says that this is just the way it is.

    (I understand that these silly polices probably have more to do with insurance more then anything)

  63. Ridiculousness. Just utter ridiculousness.

    Heck, in a lot of cases, so I gather the students are at risk from shady teachers. ( certainly was the case in my Junior High years).

    They’re schools, not prisons. A criminal record check is one thing, an extensive background check is another and doesn’t necessarily disclose any risk, and as someone mentioned, some offenders will still slip right on through that net. And they’re costly.

    Its a sad state of affairs when we’re certain everyone else wants a piece of our kids. ( I don’t have any yet and I still think these regulations are completely draconic.)

    I despair that the current era will be known as “the one that logic and sanity forgot.”

  64. To be a volunteer at my kids’ schools, you also have to have not only the background check, finger prints on file, but also go to monthly “safety” meetings.. BUT to just be a parent helping out in class, you can just walk in and help. I haven’t done any of the background checks yet, but I have spent many days both in the class helping, and on field trips. the teachers know me, and most times pair me up with other kids along with mine.

    I am currently filling out forms for being a sub. Talk about back ground info they want!

    But my kids also attend a DoDDES (Department of Defense District Europe School) These kids learn more safety drills then most public school.

  65. New Zealand: in order to volunteer at our kids’ school, you have to turn up.

    We’re importing plenty of insanity from overseas, but fortunately this particular brand has yet to take hold.

  66. How do these people earn the right to teach our children? The educators now decide for us if and when we can participate in our children’s education.

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  68. I can see the validity of pick up lists especially since as children we were in a situation where our Father was abusive and had a history of kidnapping already. that kind of list helped prevent him from picking us up.

    But this is really getting rediculous, next year grandma will need a drug test to watch her grandchildren’s recital.

  69. Same goes here in Florida…if you want to volunteer, you have to do a fingerprint and background check to the tune of like $60.00…otherwise you can not go volunteer in the room

  70. As far as I know, things aren’t like this in Utah. I went with my nephew on a museum field trip with nothing but him saying it was ok. My sister goes to her kid’s class to volunteer and if a parent can’t come in, they ask them to help cut out lessons or whatever at home.

    I don’t know what I’ll do if this starts up. My daughter is 1 and I couldn’t handle this.

  71. Lenore, when I volunteered to coach Odyssey of the Mind (mind you, there were no other parents willing to do the extra work for an additional team, so I was doing them all a favor) I had to get fingerprinted, and pass a criminal background check also (the school paid for it). At our school, you must do so if you will be involved with any kids independently (no teacher or other school staff around) – if we volunteer in the class or on field trips though, we just sign in at the front office so they know who is around campus. I am not sure when this regulation was started, but it is the “law” – in my experience, perhaps they should have the some of these kids fingerprinted before they are alone with parents! Hahhahhhahahhaaaaaaaaaa

  72. I can´t believe this. Next thing, we will be required to apply for a paternity license. Forget the free-range kids thing. Let´s start a free-range parents movement!

  73. Wow. Just, wow.

  74. The point most of you are missing is that it’s not parents who require these things or the administrators who want them.

    The fact is that we live in THE MOST litigious society in the world and if someone gets hurts or something bad does happen to a child at school (or in a public park, etc) then most Americans will sue the state, the school system, etc. because everyones out to make a quick buck and blame someone else.

    Schools are just trying to protect themselves from lawsuits. It’s a sad commentary on society. Many sane people will sit on a jury and award millions of dollars because a school didn’t to a background check.

  75. This happened to me as well in California. I was going as a chaperone on a field trip with my child, and they had to check Megan’s Law before allowing me to attend. I pointed out that I’m a credentialed teacher with another district, but that wasn’t good enough. Wow!

  76. My son’s field trip was to Plimouth Plantation and the Mayflower in Plymouth, MA to learn, ironically enough, about how 32 children spent months on a boat and when they landed they worked just as hard as the parents did, along with many other things.
    I initiallly wasnt allowed to chaperone a group of 4, along with my child (BTW, i have 5 myself and all outings are a field trip!!)
    The reason? My background check was fine, thank God, but I couldn’t do either night of the newly mandated volunteer training (awful mother, i know). Luckily my son’s teacher is “old school” and she called me and said she didnt have enough chaperones so If I was willing, I was going!!
    Imagine the outrage if someone found out that after the 499 field trips I’ve already been on that I wasnt volunteerally trained for this one!!!

  77. I love the idea of an Outrage of the Week on the blog. Here’s mine from this past weekend:

    It was Sunday morning. The sun was shining, and it was in the 70s – a great day to be outside. My husband and I were helping the kids get dressed to play n the front yard with a new water table we had bought for them. When my 2-year-old’s flp flops kept falling off, my husband said, “He can’t wear those – they’re falling off!” I shrugged and told him that it ddn’t matter if one of them fell off – he was just going to be playing in the yard on the grass, and besides, we wouldn’t want him wearing shoes and socks to play wth water. Well, he flipped out, and suggested that he was better off staying in the house than playing in our front yard wth no shoes on. Apparently, if a child walks around on the grass in their yard, they can get “diseases.” My husband and I argued passionately over this for a few minutes before I got fed up and brought the kids, some with shoes and some without, outside to play.

  78. This is the law in the state of Texas. As of Sept.09 fingerprints will also be needed. If a school does not comply, they will be held accountable. Their representative will file a report with the state and post on public website that they are not in compliance

  79. I am a 53 year old woman. When I was little, I was a free-range kid. My happiest memories were of summer days in Virginia when I would leave home in the morning and not return till the street lights came on (that was our rule.) I don’t think my parents even knew where I was! I would knock on doors and say, “Can Caroline come out and play?” My 46 year old husband had the same wonderful childhood, only he was in the woods most of the time – a real nature boy. His mom and dad never knew where he was either. My younger sister used to get on her tricycle and ride around the block visiting all the old folks. She brought so much happiness into their lives and they adored her. They used to call my mom if she did not show up to ask where she was. Can you IMAGINE anyone letting their child do that today?

    How did we get so twisted? I am tempted to blame the lawyers…….

  80. This is pretty crazy. I can see a lot of problems with this rule (created, not by teachers, but the administrators or someone above them).

    What about military families, particularly if one parent is deployed when the school year begins? If Daddy gets back from Iraq early and wants to surprise his kid, will he have to wait until his background check clears out? Will he have to wait at home until the kid gets home from school? What about some of the examples given, in which one parent was arrested a good deal of time before they have a child, or there’s a false or unfair arrest? Then there are situations where a parent is a teacher in another district — really? ANOTHER background check? That’s excessive.

    However, from a teacher’s perspective: I can sort of see why this rule has been made. And I can see why teachers may like this rule — some parents volunteer to help in the classroom, on field trips, etc because they’re interested in helping with their child. Some do so because they want to make sure their child is being taught/supervised adequately (the helicopter parents). Some do so to get an excused absence at work or free cupcakes.

    But there’s always the chance that there’s an abusive parent, or one with psychological issues, or whatever other situation. Sometimes there are families that are separated because one parent was dangerous, and the other parent took the kids and left. The parent with the kids might not want to have a background check run because the dangerous parent could, potentially, find them. Should that parent be prevented from working with their child? I don’t believe so. However, there are too many situations in which there’s a parent with a restraining order, or who had been in jail and were released unexpectedly/escape.

    My point is there really needs to be a balance between keeping kids safe and not being hysterical about every potential threat. Particularly within schools. The teacher is responsible for his/her 20-30 at any given time, and should keep those children safe — however, the majority of parents that want to be involved with school parties/trips/class activities do so because they want to be involved with their kids. I’d guess that the vast minority would try to join a trip or help in the class to find a child to molest or abuse.

  81. I’m in Michigan. At the beginning of the year we get a background check form for parents who wish to volunteer. Easy to fill out, there is no charge.

    As far as I know any parent (background checked or not) can attend a party or function, but you need to sign in and wear a badge.

    We also have a Approved Pick-Up list we fill out at the beginning of the year. If anyone besides myself or my husband (who the teacher has met) picks of my child they must be on the list, or it must be indicated by a note from me sent with my child. They are supposed to check ID.

    I think it’s great to have an approved pick-up list. I have a family member with mental illness and one with drinking problems and no, it’s not okay for them to pick up my child and who knows if they might try one day.

    I also think the background check is appropriate for parents who will be supervising children without the teacher present or may be driving children. Not for attending a party or at school function.

  82. Sheena, surely it makes more sense for the custodial parent, in those cases, to warn the school – rather than for the school to make a blanket forbidding of parents until they jump through several hundred hoops.

  83. We have the same rules about volunteering at the school here in Australia. It is more of a declaration than a full checking process though. It is not needed to attend things like school events though, ie, just if you are helping in some capacity. A rule that did come in a few years ago that prevented me from helping at my daughters school was that you couldn’t transport children on field trips unless you had comprehensive car insurance (rather than just third party and property which is what we have because our car is too old to be worth insuring).

    If you want somethign even more outrageous for this column, I heard of a company over here having to refuse a father’s demand to attend a job interview with his son! It was for a graduate position so the son would have been in his early 20s (ie, not a job for a 15yo working at McDonalds).

  84. […] At her great new site, Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy hears from a reader in suburban Texas who reports that parents wishing to attend their class holiday party are required to undergo a volunteer background check. Many of her commenters have similar stories — and worse. […]

  85. Oh, I’m sooo glad I not American. The watered-down version of this kind of thing that’s being introduced here in Australia is bad enough… but at least, where I live, it’s still normal to see kids playing in the street and so on.

    Still, I don’t think you can entirely blame this kind of thing on litigation. It just seems like a lot of public policy these days gets dictated by people who are downright neurotic and/or control freaks– and are doing their best to make the next generation turn out just like them.

    Hmmnn… I wonder if parents would have grounds to sue the school if their kids turned out socially maladjusted and paranoid…?

  86. […] it’s background checks?  Read some of the comments.  It’s an […]

  87. it really ridiculous we have right to be with are kids nomader where you are.

  88. Did anyone notice the OTHER outrage here?
    You know . . . “Winter Holiday party” . . . instead of “Christmas party?”

  89. that is a little over the top; however if the schools did nothing and something happened to you kids you would blame the school and most likely sue the school district.

  90. shawn19, What do you mean, “if something happened”? What do you think is likely to “happen” at a crowded school function in a room full of people?

  91. Better question – what’s likely to happen that screening could prevent?

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  93. Last I knew the government was there to protect the country from it’s enemies not the children from their own parents. What happens if something they do not like shows up on that background check? Do they never let you child leave with you again? And who decides what things are too awful for you to be around your own children? Is it only child abuse charges or maybe an alcohol related charge from years before you had kids? What about a speeding ticket because if they let you be around your kids and you have had a speeding ticket before, you may speed with them in the car as well. Then the school system would be held responsible because they knew about your speeding habit but still let you pick you child up from school-oh we cant have that!! Before long they will require similar things in the maternity ward. I believe that is exactly the way Marx wanted it to be anyway-let the government raise the children from birth and then they can produce faithful little robots. Little by litte his dream is becoming reality in America.

    This is EXACTLY why we homeschool. God gave our children to my husband and me to raise and we plan on doing just that!

  94. I just found out my daughter and my niece were Required to sign up for background checks at their children’s schools even though neither has the time to ever volunteer. This was a mandatory action.I have instructed them to never fill these out and they should do background checks on the school personel. We have to protect our children and what little freedom we have left. Amen to Home School. I home schooled my daughter but her husband is against that for their children because of socialization. LOL. Sad reason to send a child to public school.

  95. What if I know a parent who volunteers and is a illeglal alien with a crimal record?

  96. This is absolutely ridiculous. We The People, The Parents, The Grandparents need to stand up. If no one volunteered because of this rule; this rule would disappear. I live in Texas also, and If I were told I had to have a background check to enter MY Child or Grandchild’s classroom for any reason, it would hit the fan. My daughter was asked to submit to a background check and I told her to refuse and ask the school staff that would be interacting with her child to submit to one. They have never asked her again. Having said that, I would like you to know that recently my husband had a cook out and invited people from his job and their spouses. One man who attended was married to a public school teacher and they had a two year old son. The teacher came to my house dressed like a street walker with tattoos up and down her legs; drank beer like it was going out of style and did not watch her own child. I was horrified; this is what takes care of our children when they attend school.

  97. That’s ridiculous…. This is for the safety of our children…So let me ask you this? If there was someone posing to be you or your husband picks up your kids and takes them? What would you do?…Thats why you have to sign in at the front office…. I am sure you’d like your kids to be safe…and make sure they’re not in some criminal hands, who’s a parent of on the kids in the school…And as for the “teacher” that you guys invited to your home. So your saying she has be a teacher at cook out…teaching? I am sure your no angel…

  98. The ridiculous thing is that people blindly take their children to the school and leave them with strangers and then submit to background checks to be in the company of their own children. As for the teacher, I did not expect her to be a Teacher at the cook out , but I did expect her to be a responsible mother; if a woman won’t take care of her own child, who wants her looking after theirs. As the comment about me. I am no angel, but I don’t drink and if I did I would not neglect my child to do it.

  99. Lenore,
    I am just discovering your blog and am enjoying the discussions that you facilitate here. My hat’s off to you!

    Re: background checks for volunteers at schools. I would be thrilled to see such a conservative policy adopted at my kids’ school. The facts are: 1 in 5 kids are sexually abused before the age of 18 (this is a conservative estimate since many are never reported). The average age of victims is 9 yrs. and 90% are abused by someone they know and trust.

    Requiring background checks and educational programs for volunteers sends a strong message that the school takes the issue of sexual abuse seriously and that in and of itself is a deterant to potenetial abusers who have contact with kids in the school.

    I am especially surprised at your readers unwillingness to participate in education on the topic of child sexual abuse. It is only through such education that we can learn how to truly, and without paranoia, keep our kids safe. We (as a society) obviously don’t know as much as we think we do about the topic or children would not continue to be abused at the outrageous rate that they do.

  100. Melanie, you propagate exact the “fears” that we don’t buy into. You stated, in your words, that the majority of abuse is from someone the child knows: meaning, Uncle Bob. The stranger isn’t the one abusing the child, and a background check on Tommy’s dad probably won’t show that he’s abusing his child (IF he is, and he’s probably not). I don’t believe that the parent volunteers at my child’s school are a risk. I refuse to volunteer because I refuse the background check. I believe it’s scaremongering at it’s highest. I refuse to live in fear, there are no “alarming” rates (it’s actually a safer world than when I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s!) and I will not hide our children on the statistical improbability that some harm may come to them. This does not translate into a lesser love or an uncaring attitude; it suggests a grasp of reality and not a blur between CSI and real world.

  101. Melanie–if you think about it, assuming your number of 1 in 5 kids is correct, that means by the time a child turns 18, EVERY CHILD will have been sexually abused 3 to 4 times at a minimum (1 in 5 = 20%, would hake five years to have all 100%). On the face of it that is absurd. (BTW, can I assume that the “90% will be abused…” means sexually abused, tp be consistent with your story?)
    And do you REALLY agree that by encouraging paranoia among the kids–that “all adults, you know, PARTICULARLY MALE ADULTS, are BAD!”–that the kids will “learn…without paranoia”? Sounds like Vietnam War-era reasoning…”We must destroy the village in order to save the village.”
    We must also remember –“Kids always tell the truth about this”–is just that, one big lie.

  102. I agree with Sandra and Melvin. The truth is Melanie, The school is not protecting your children from the other parents, that is not even their goal. They are preparing to protect your children from you. They are looking for the children that come from good homes. They don’t want the children that have screwed up parents because those children already have issues and will be no good to them. You may call this paranoia if you like but it is a fact. Having said this, if you truly believe what you said then I am suprised you send your children to school at all or do you send them to protect them from the people they KNOW.

  103. “The facts are: 1 in 5 kids are sexually abused before the age of 18…”

    And how many of those are abused by their schoolmates’ parents who have volunteered to help out at their schools? I’m tipping not many.

    “Requiring background checks and educational programs for volunteers sends a strong message that the school takes the issue of sexual abuse seriously…”

    No, it sends a strong message that the school is paranoid about even the remotest chance of a lawsuit, to the point where they’re willing to actually drive away potential volunteers with their need for costly, invasive background checks.

    “I am especially surprised at your readers unwillingness to participate in education on the topic of child sexual abuse.”

    Oh, please. We’re quite willing to be educated on the facts. What we’re not willing to participate in is the mass hysteria that seems to be gripping society these days.

    “We (as a society) obviously don’t know as much as we think we do about the topic or children would not continue to be abused at the outrageous rate that they do.”

    Children aren’t being abused because we’re not doing background checks on anyone who spends more than thirty seconds in their crowded, busy classrooms (exactly when is anybody even going to get the chance to touch up a kiddy in that kind of environment, even if they are that way inclined?) on a regular basis.

  104. Please, please, please Lenore. Run for public office. Or even better (really just the same), make yourself a well-known media commentator. Your voice needs to be louder. All these talking heads are drowning out logic from our society. Please.

  105. This is such a joke. My husband, who has a sterling record and the potential to gift thousands of dollars to the school, had to request a “rush” for his background check last week. This was not to volunteer…this was so he could merely watch my daughter recite a poem at an end of the year program.

    However, there is a 56 year old recently convicted felon coaching my son’s high school swim team. Apparently, you can hang around half-naked kids every afternoon in the public schools, so long as you get your fingerprints and let them know about the bad decisions you’ve made.

    This is what happens, folks, when the government is in charge of your child’s well being.

  106. How much longer before the children themselves need to get background checks…

    Got to protect them from eachother!

  107. You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be really one thing that I believe I’d by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am having a look forward to your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

  108. I wonder if RobC would be singing the same tune about Catholic priests….if, like a fairly large number of similar cases, we find out in 10-20 years that many of the cases against Catholic priests (not all, mind, but many) are, much like McMartin Preschool, the cases in MA, FL, etc.: They turn out to be not true…….? (I am automatically suspicious of any cases that come out years, even decades, afterward, as if more supposed “victims” are either having repressed-memory syndrome or something else.) Where do the priests–along with parents, siblings, etc. who are initially found guilty–then go to get their reputations back?

  109. Volunteers should be submitted into an accurate and thorough background screening this will ensure the the peacefulness of the parents.

  110. CarolynElizabeth, just to clarify a point you made in your April 30, 2010 post: You posted that “…there [was] a 56-year-old recently convicted felon coaching my son’s hugh school swim team.” Do you know what was the felony this coach was convicted of? (Please keep in mind that a LOT of things NOT involving children and/or sex nowadays are felonies under the law, and [I think] penalties can not be applied retroactively. Having said that, if he had been convicted of some sexual crime he would not likely be coaching “high school boys swim team”, and he likely would be on a public list for those types of crimes.)

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