Trust No One — Especially Not a Parent Volunteering at School

Hi Readers — Here’s a round-up of Providence, Rhode Island-area schools that are making their parent volunteers get background checks, sent in by a gal named Rema. I know a lot of folks will say, “This makes sense! Can’t hurt — can only help!” but let’s consider whether that’s true.

*First of all, if there are any studies that show kids are getting molested right and left by parents who volunteer at recess duty or on field trips, I haven’t seen them. It seems kind of hard to molest a kid in the middle of a trip to the petting zoo. (To read how children are being discouraged from actually petting animals at the petting zoo — for health reasons — click here. But then don’t forget to come back! The bus leaves PROMPTLY at 2:15.)

*Secondly, the idea behind these background checks is that everyone who is innocent should be happy to be checked, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that now we are treating everyone as GUILTY of unspeakable crimes against children, until proven otherwise. That is a strange view to have of humanity, not to mention a depressing one. It’s also wrong: Most people are not child rapists. (Something tabloid TV forgets.)

*Thirdly, and this is a topic I hope to get deeper into on a later post: even most of the folks who are ON the sex offender lists do not pose a threat to children. I know that sounds shocking, which is why we’ll revisit it. Suffice to say that if you are a 16-year-old who has consensual sex twice with a girl you think is about your age (who turns out to be 13), as was actually the case with a guy named Ricky, you can find yourself registered FOREVER as a “Tier 3 predator.” Your charge will read  “lewd and lacivious acts with a child.”  

Any parent reading that description would think, “Keep him AWAY!” But is a teen who had sex with another teen really a threat to our kids? Those sex offender lists are like bad data: They look like helpful information, but a lot of it is just garbage. I’d let Ricky chaperone my kids.

*Finally, this whole “background check” deal falls into the ever-growing category of trying to make extremely unlikely events extremely unlikely.  Just as a manufacturer will recall a stroller if 1 child in 36,000 gets his fingers pinched in a wheel,  just as a park district will remove all the merry-go-rounds lest some child possibly hurt herself, just as a principal will forbid kids from playing tag because someone could trip,we are now going to excessive lengths to make it harder for helpful parents to help a school,  when we should be doing just the opposite.

Anyone who is willing to volunteer for lunch duty, or recess: God bless ’em. (I tried once, and fled.) –Lenore

105 Responses

  1. You’re right that it comes across as one of those “can’t hurt, why not?” things, but I’m guessing it does discourage people from volunteering in the same way I don’t want to be fingerprinted to cash a check: sure, I’ve got nothing to hide, but it’s annoying to have to go through it anyway.

    Ricky’s story is what really concerns me about sex offender lists. Those lists bother me for a multitude of reasons, not least that the stranger down the street is the least likely person to be a danger to your child. Sure, it might be useful information to have, but at what cost?

  2. Often we forget that the majority of sex offenders are FIRST-TIME offenders…which is why the registries continue to grow at an alarming rate. One statistic I saw recently put this number at about 7%. Another reputable authority on the subject put the number at an average 100 people per day added to sex offender registries.

    Even assuming sexual offenses are not statistically unlikely (and they are), then we see from the above that background checks are less likely to have an effect on the outcome as most sex offenses are committed by first-time offenders.

    A good example of how such profiling does NOT work was finally discovered by a former employer of mine. As a senior member of management (AND REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER) no one ever had a problem with me doing my job. There was also the fact that I was good at that job. However, some year or so back, the company started screening prospective employees through a profiling company. Had I been a candidate at that time, rather than before we had started profiling people, I would not have had a job there. But we did manage to still hire some good people. One of those persons had previously held a position within the US Air Force before being honorably discharged. He had held a top secret security clearance and the profile said he was destined to be a great employee. Less than a year later he was discharged from his position for failure to show up for work. Shortly after that we found he had been stealing from the company for some time.

    The fact is that profiling did not work. Profiling fails to grant humanity its most prized possession and its greatest weakness–choice. We choose how we will act, and unfortunately, under strain we often embrace unclear, distorted thinking. These thinking errors lead us to commit crimes which we later regret and from which we hopefully learn a lesson to move forward.

    Background checks are already run on school employees. Yet how many teachers have we seen arrested for sex crimes? How many first-time offenders do we see in the criminal justice system? Clearly the only people who will win from this policy are the vendors who are selling expensive equipment to schools, consuming money that would be best spent ensuring our children are capable of critical thought and reason.

  3. You can add Seekonk, MA, right outside Providence, to that list. I’ve been filling out the CORI forms for 2-3 years now.

  4. All the more reason I do not volunteer at my child’s school this year, they require background checks, and it is time consuming and frustrating to get this done, considering I live overseas, but am an American citizen.

    Here is what is ironic to me(and not that I want the school to implement this, just telling you), if I need to check my daughter out of school early for any reason, they require no picture id to pick my child up. But, in order to volunteer in her classroom, I have to have a background check? Oh, and if I do volunteer, I need to go sign in the office and get a visitor badge, but still not present any form of ID. Me thinks you cannot have it both ways. Either do away with the background checks for volunteers, or do them and check my ID when I pick my child up.

    For reference, I live in Europe married to an American military service member and my child attends a Department of Defense school. I am sure they got my pertinent info somewhere already. But, nope, I cannot volunteer because the background check is not completed.

  5. Don’t forget the cost for the background checks, that at least for us, has to be picked up by the parents!!

  6. Does it help? I don’t have statistics in front of me. Some volunteers are not the parents of children attending the school, and -yes, I would want them screened. And if you’re going to screen one set of volunteers, then it’s easier to just screen them all.

    What are you screening for, though, which is where I kind of agree with you. Most sex offenders that get caught are first time offenders, and most successful predators haven’t been caught because theyr’e good at not getting caught, which means they don’t do stuff like volunteer at the local school.

    Predators do find roles that provide access, but I don’t know how often they would seek access in the school.

    On that note, however, this area did have an elementary school girl sexually assaulted by an adult in the restroom during school hours. The adult was not a staff member. So it does happen.

    I guess the question is does the screening help it ::not:: happen.

  7. I agree that the registered sex offenders aren’t the ones I’m most concerned about. I’m more concerned about people I trust turning out to be untrustworthy. But there’s not much I can do about THAT.

    I completely understand the school’s actions, though. They are protecting themselves from possible lawsuits. If everyone is “approved” by the background checks, etc. then they have covered their butts. And it is a simple thing, really. I do agree that the registered sex offenders who have been labeled as such for “crimes” as you’ve listed above have gotten a horribly raw deal. But that’s a different topic and needs new laws to be made to revamp what is considered a sexual crime and how they are described on someone’s background check.

    I don’t fear the registered sex offender down our street (who IS, btw, an honest to gosh “bad guy” that ran an internet cafe and molested 12-14 year old boys that he lured in. Just what every news story is made of!). We KNOW he’s there. That’s easy to protect against.

  8. bethan, was the adult a school volunteer, or just someone random who wandered onto the campus?

  9. Exactly what is happening here, But techers drs etc will now have to have crb checks and the new check being implemented later this year.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Records_Bureau#Enhanced_disclosure

    http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/safeguardingandsocialcare/safeguardingchildren/vettingandbarringscheme/vettingvandbarring/

    As a supply teacher I have to get a separate cbr check for every agency. If I don’t work for anagency for 3 months it has to be renewed at my own expence. When it was first implemented this was not the case. They were tranferrable.

    The V&B is meant to be one check which is tranferrable to any place you work with children BUT I can see in the not too distant future we will have to have one per organisaton. Exeperts suggest that either check only catches those who have been caught already.

    I don’t want to see any child harmed but wwe are now all guilty until proved innocent

    The cynical among us asks who is making money out of this

  10. They have mandatory background checks in our district. I think it’s unnecessary. If someone’s background check comes back hinky are they going to kick their child out of school just in case? Also, what if someone is a danger, but doesn’t have a record because they haven’t been caught? What good is the background check at that point? But really it’s just the propagation of crap system that costs money and doesn’t have any real effect other than making people feel guilty and spreading fear.

  11. That’s nothing – to volunteer at my child’s school (Chicago Public) I was required to have a background check and, since I wasn’t born in Illinois, was required to go down to the main CPS office and get fingerprinted, too!

  12. My kids go to a Catholic school and the archdioceses of Chicago requires all volunteers to have a criminal background check (which we don’t have to pay for) and a 3 hour Virtus training thing (which my friend says is stupid and pointless). You can’t volunteer to help in the class for parties or field trips or for any other school activity that would have you in contact with kids.
    You can’t even volunteer for BINGO night at the church because people might bring their kids with.
    Yet we are also required to have 20 hours of service to the school every year or we have to pay extra on our tuition.
    I refuse to go through the process. This is the 3rd year my kids have been at the school and I’ve never been inside for anything other then open houses, parent/teacher conferences and the occasional gathering that takes place in the school basement or the church basement (like the Christmas sing a long or Kindy graduation).
    All the policy does is keep parents from volunteering because it’s a pain.

  13. @Michelle – It was not someone who had wandered in off the street, and not a school employee. The person’s reason for having access to the school was not shared with me, and I don’t need to know, so I didn’t request access to the police record.

    In WA, the cost of the background check, for parents, is picked up by the state. I think it’s regularly $10, as that’s what I paid for the same check when I was a girl scout troop leader.

  14. In Washington State you can easily go to a site that shows a map of all registered sex offenders. You click on the dot on the map and get a picture and name of the sex offender. It’s really quite easy to use, I checked it out one day.

    http://www.icrimewatch.net/washington.php

    What if one of the parents had an old marijuana or prostitution bust on their record, or some other relatively ‘victimless’ but embarrassing crime? That person should equally be able to help in their child’s classroom without the nosy school knowing all the blunders of their misspent youth.

  15. Assuming guilt is always wrong. Our legal system is built around the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty. When we reverse this idea at our grade schools what are we teaching our children and what are the long term results of this?

  16. i was going to suggest checking all fellow classmates, too. volunteers are only a fraction of the threat as an understandably screwed up kid.

    but the “first-time” offender stat makes a good point. perhaps installing lie-detectors in the classroom and improving upon brain-wash skills would be more effective.

    bummer it’s so difficult to just go to school and learn something useful. i am, however, grateful for the ones who survive, and pray they don’t land careers that force them to “do what we say/how we say” or be sneaky enough to get by.

  17. Some background checks are a joke. Where I lived, the Cathollic bishop’s office determined that anyone having contact with minors must have a background check, for which each was to pay.
    Except those who were excused…a majority of Sunday ushers (but not all), Scout leaders (the non-Catholic ones), and of course, unducumented aliens.
    Did I have a problem with this? A little. Not for me personally, having clearances from the local police department to the US Secret Service, the Pentagon, and the Boy Scouts of America. I did and do have reservations because these were not deemed “adequate” because they did not involve fingerprinting by local junior college students. And more reservations when I was told that “nothing would be done with the fingerprints or information” other than filing away in a secure cabinet. What was the point of this execise then?
    I was also told any findings would not be shared with me for clarification. Before the junior college report arrived, I was asked to leave the parish, no real reason given, other than the “screening” was not the reason since its findings had not been received.

  18. I suspect that in many cases it’s the state that mandates that anyone working with kids get a background check, not the schools in particular. (Not that that matters.) I know I’ve had to get them done for volunteering at the library in at least two states.

    But I didn’t have to pay for either. So that’s something.

  19. As an addendum to the sex offenders registry mention in the post, I know a person who was dating their current wife when he was 18, and she was still legally a minor. Her parents didn’t like the relationship, so they took it upon themselves to charge him with statutory rape, a crime he was convicted for.

    Now, every time he and his wife move, he is legally mandated to tell all his new neighbors that he’s a child rapist, even though the girl he ‘raped’ is his wife.

    Admittedly, he did break the law, but the way sex crimes are handled in this country has a tendency to villianize some people who are not dangerous n the least.

  20. The question is–what do we do about it? For the first time, I have a child in public school and according to the rules, in order to volunteer in ANY capacity, volunteers have to submit to background checks. Apparently this changed about a year ago when just volunteers with unsupervised access to kids (like coaches) needed to be checked. The list of crimes that will keep one from the volunteer lists are the “big” one such as murder, sexual crimes, crimes against children, and drug-related crimes (including possession of marijuana), etc.

    While I personally don’t have to worry about not passing, it does seem to me that it’s going overboard to have every PARENT who sells popcorn at the carnival’s concession booth have a check! Or PARENTS who are passing out cupcakes in a full classroom with teachers and other adults around. I can understand having non-parent/guardians get checked, because there’s not an obvious link as to why they’d want to volunteer, so while i still think it’s slightly ridiculous, I won’t make a big deal of that.

    I’m sure that potential for lawsuits is part of the issue, but has anyone come across any stats on that that could be shared? (I haven’t found any) In my school district, if you don’t pass the background check, you’re simply not placed on the list of those who are OK to volunteer. It’s very confidential. Of course, on one hand I don’t have an issue with that, but it occurred to me that possibly schools are opening themselves up to more liability because if they know that “Jane” or “John” has a criminal record that would prevent them from volunteering and the school doesn’t share that info, and then I, as a parent, let my child have a playdate with Jane or John’s child at their house and something horrible happens, could I potentially sue the school for possessing info and not sharing? I know that’s a stretch (and not something I personally would ever do!), but it did occur to me.

    So what does everyone do? Should I make a big deal of this, and question WHY background checks are being required on every parent? I’m sure the answer is the usual song-and-dance about protecting our children, blah blah blah. To actually get it changed seems like it would be monumental and also make me the focus of ire of parents who can’t understand why I would “want to endanger our children in this way?” or wonder what horrific crime I have committed that I’m so concerned about it. Or, do I just let it go and have the school waste their increasingly limited resources on checking out my exceedingly boring and empty criminal background? What have others done? It’s hard to imagine not volunteering–ever–on the principle of the matter, when the ones who will “suffer” the most are my kids and the rest of the kids. But, what can we do??

  21. I am a parent of an 8 year old boy and we live in a village of less than 500 people ( in Canada) , the school here has those daft back ground checks that parents must fill out and pay for if they wish to volunteer.

    Now in my youth I was a rather free spirited kid, and at the age of 18 I was arrested and charged with possession of a restricted weapon…. I had bought a knife at a local head shop in the city, the blade was around 10 inches long ( the legal maximum length being 6 inches) …I was busted coming out of the store, receipt in hand ….that charge went on my record …now because of that charge decades ago ( I’m 42 now) I can not volunteer at my sons school, nor can I attend Father son days at the school…. why? because of a decades old weapons charge …in the schools eyes my son’s Father (me) is a dangerous weapon wielding fiend who poses a great risk to the students…… of course I am not , but due to the schools paranoia I could be …. it’s upsetting to both me and my son to say the least.
    The whole parents must be subjected to a back ground check before volunteering is just nothing short of insane, who are they really protecting? the kids? not likely, what does it teach the kids? …trust no one, not even your parents!

  22. When I worked in an elementary school the kids we had a school wide ban on tag because too many kids were hitting and shoving each other, not because someone might trip. In fact, we encouraged them to run races and chase each other; they just couldn’t touch each other.

  23. My church is going through this. Yes, we know you. No, we don’t think the background check is gonna change anything. Yes, we know the background check is keeping people from volunteering. Sure, we understand you’re a teacher and have already gone through a background check.

    but… our insurance will drop us if we don’t do it and we can’t afford that.

    What are we to do?

  24. I knwo Lenore asked a similar question to this in a previous blog entry, but what could one say to someone who is pro-background check? I mean I say they’re are ridiculous and they say “if it saves even one child isn’t it worth it?”
    How do you have a comeback without sounding like a callous kid endangerer? (yeah, that’s a word)

  25. I go in to the school library once a week, twice if needed, to shelve books and other administrative tasks that the librarian might need. I started doing this because the county budget cut eliminated the full-time library assistant. If they had insisted that I have a background check before I would be “allowed” to donate my time, I would have refused. Yes, I have nothing to hide, but I feel it’s a violation of my civil liberties. All this does is discourage good parents from donating their time.

  26. Les–That is so ridiculous! Since our school’s list of crimes includes possession of marajuana, I’m sure that there are many parents who may have indulged back in college, got busted and now can never ever volunteer. It’s ludicrous. Have you tried appealing the decision? (I’m not sure what one does, and just wondering if you’ve tried to fight it at all.)

  27. I’m in charge of gathering the data and conducting background checks for my daughter’s nursery school. I hate having to explain this to the prospective parents but, like Michael said, our insurance REQUIRES that we do background checks on every parent volunteer, which is everyone because we’re a cooperative nursery school.

  28. You guys are making me feel so lucky that I live in a place that doesn’t do background checks!

    I volunteer like crazy at the kids’ schools. I’ve been president of the PTA, head of the grounds committee, etc etc. It seems like I’m there everyday.

    But if the school district started requiring background checks, I wouldn’t be there any more.

    We have so much trouble trying to get folks to volunteer,,, it’s a constant struggle. Why would they want to put another hurtle in the path???

  29. Lets not forget the money angle here.

    SOMEONE is cashing in on contracting for these checks. A state and local check is about 70 bucks.

    A national one is about 150 and a national + Federal is closer to 250. Multiply that on a national scale, and it make me wonder who is funding this aberrant wave of revulsion and fear we have seen growing.

    Follow the money!

  30. @Jan – I live in WA, too, and the registry is better designed than most, but please remember that a) most registered sex offenders are not a threat to your kids, and b) that registry map can be up to six months behind, due to paperwork issues when offenders move, which they do often.

  31. Follow the money? Yes! Someone who thinks as I do.

    That is the problem everyone. Insurance companies, background-check providers and lawyers make a killing on this and related issues.

    Has anyone realized the trial lawyers and insurance companies have two of the largest lobbies in our political system?

    Fear sells, are you buying? When was the last time anyone here spoke up in public against this?

  32. The school district here in San Diego, CA added new rules this year for parent volunteers at school, even if they will not be doing jobs that involve being in contact with children (such as putting together packets of papers to go home). A packet of paperwork, a TB test, and fingerprinting/background check are required. Per the woman I spoke to at the school district, these measures are not being taken in response to something actually happening, but just ‘as a precaution’. So this means I have to set up an appointment to get fingerprinted, two appointments for my TB test, all of which mean taking time off of work. The school district is picking up the tab for the fingerprinting and background check, and will provide the TB at no charge to those who need it. In a time when there is less and less money available to actually educate our kids, is this really the best way to be spending that money? I’m betting it will result in fewer parents volunteering at school – many will just not be willing to go through the hassle – at a time when their contributions are more important than ever due to staff cutbacks in the schools.

    My husband’s case is very much like Ricky’s – he was convicted at the age of 19 of “Sexual Battery of a minor”. He met a girl in a nightclub who claimed to be 18, had sex with her, turns out she was 15, in the club with a fake ID. Unfortunately, even if the person actively deceives you, it doesn’t make you any less guilty in the eyes of the law. He was forced to register as a sex offender for 10 years – when he moved to California, which mandates lifetime registration, he was told he would have to register for the rest of his life. Fortunately, that decision was overturned, and he no longer has to register. However, because he must declare that conviction and it shows up on background checks, he has been turned down for jobs, and cannot volunteer at our children’s school or any of their activities. Perhaps he made a bad choice (who doesn’t when they are 19), but he is not a danger to children. I am all for protecting society from actual predators, but current sex offender laws are out of control, and I would argue doing very little to protect society.

  33. We just enrolled our son after homeschooling. The rules are a culture shock to us! Today, my spouse is filling out his background check and submitting $7. *sigh*

  34. Parents need to get the word out that background checks are ineffective. Besides the very important fact that most criminals are not caught for quite a while, the information on those who ARE convicted is hard to get. In my county, records are not online, so you have to go to the county courthouse and type in a name. If any of the info was mistyped at any point along the way (i.e. police officer or court clerk spelled last name wrong), you’ll never find it. Anything that happened outside the county won’t show up, nor will anything that happened before they got this computer system (about 12-15 years ago).

    I think a lot of schools and organizations are doing this because they think it’s what parents want, and because they hope to limit their liability in case anything does happen. If we show them that parents don’t really want this, maybe they’ll back off?

  35. The issues with our sex offender database is two-fold. Not only does it vilify those who were found guilty on what basically amounted to a technicality (parents didn’t like their daughter’s boyfriend, so now that he turned 18 and she’s still 15, they’re going to charge him for statutory rape), but it obscures those who actually *are* threats to children by surrounding them with a mass of technicalities.

    One way, I think, to help solve the matter is if they still insist on making teenage statutory rape cases register, to specifically say something along the lines of “statutory rape of a minor X number of years younger than defendant.” As it stands, there’s just enough information available to cause trouble.

    Another way, too, is to consider whether the situation the accused offender is in gives them reason to assume that the minor was in fact, over 18 (for example, at a club that doesn’t allow minors). If the “victim” was in a place where minors aren’t admitted in, and/or if they had ID (even fake ID), that claimed they were of age, then there’s no reason for the accused to believe otherwise. It’s a far cry from a person who has sex (consensual or not) with a minor, knowing that they aren’t of age.

  36. I had one of those ‘high spirited’ kids and volunteered frequently in the schools out of gratitude and sympathy for the teacher.

    My take on this? It isn’t meant to ‘save just one child’. It’s meant to subtly exclude parents from participating in their children’s schooling.

    It’s meant to make parent jump through hoops, to inconvience, to discourage their participation – especially Dads.

    You see, parents observe. Parent’s criticize. Parents ask questions. Parents assert themselves in their children’s lives by volunteering.

    It’s certainly true, some parents do stupid, awkward and inappropriate things in schools. Their little darling can do no wrong, why isn’t Jimmy the class president, so on and on.

    Most parents presence in their child’s school, however, is seen as a strong factor and influence over their child’s life, rather than the teachers “who really care for them’.

    I also think a lot of parents want this – they want someone else to look after their kids, to put up with their difficulties, to fill in the gap…and they want it guilt free.

    I’ve attended a class with my daughter she was habitually ditching. My intention was to embarass her, but sitting there amidst paper airplanes and spit wads flying, nail filing, gum smacking and couples making out on the last row I decided to have her placed in another classroom where she flourished.

    I got a job eventually at my kid’s high school in the Nurse’s office. An eye opener. Our school had a student on site which lead to the school with the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. Teachers were having affairs with students, but no males were involved so it was overlooked. A 14 year old bragged to me she was meeting men on the internet for weekend hook ups – “Where are your parents when you’re gone all week end?” ” Work.”

    I always walked my kids to school, not fearing sex offenders, but traffic – it’s the #1 cause of death, children walking to school. I was told even if I volunteered to watch other’s children in the cross walk I would be liable if they disobeyed and ran in front of a car.

  37. Correction: should have said: student day care center on site.

  38. My biggest problem with background checks is that they are actually VERY unlikely to reveal any crimes against children (the ones we are trying to “protect”) because its very rare for someone to actually be criminally charged (much less convicted) of child abuse. Most child abuse issues are handled by juvenile court and do not appear on their parent’s background checks.

    If people actually wanted to protect children from those likely to hurt them, they’d have to run a “CANTS” check – Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System – but most don’t even realize this system exists.

    But the bottom line really should be that “It seems kind of hard to molest a kid in the middle of a trip to the petting zoo”.

  39. Well, I’d prefer not to have Ricky chaperone my kids (because I don’t think a 16 year old who has sex with someone he doesn’t even know well enough and hasn’t known long enough even to know how old she is a good role model), but I agree background checks are unnecessary for mere volunteers. I am, however, happy to have background checks for teachers, regular nursery attendants, etc.

    I do think a lack of tort reform is the source of a great many of these excesses you speak of.

  40. And I will second the fact that background checks are ineffective. Lawyers and law enforcement officers will tell you that before a pedophile is actually caught, tried, and convicted, he has molested an average of 50 girls or 150 boys.

  41. Sky,

    Please tell us where you get your “50 girls or 150 boys” statistic? I would really be interested to see an official, published report of some kind.

    You may reach me at mail@samcaldwell.net or just post the citing here.

  42. wow… you hit a sore spot with a lotta folks!

    truth is, before we homeschooled, i was a lunchroom and recess fella. what STRUCK me was the plethora of kids who said, “gee… you’re the only grown-up who has ever listened to me.” drove me to a serious drinking problem, just to numb the pain– not a recommended response, mind you. as well as to recover and pull my kids out to give them a fighting chance of learning and growing.

    but if our gov/local gov is gonna weed out any positive influences and fail to properly screen any harm, what OTHER choice do we have… as LOVING parents?

  43. BTW and as a side note:

    i get alotta the same as a homeschooling male. i can’t tell you the number of groups and mother’s-day-out programs i’ve been excluded from outta “what if you’re a predetor-type” gender bias. i’ve heard all the excuses, but they each wind up like belly buttons… we all got one.

    the truth is, I DON’T DISCRIMINATE AGE, RACE, RELIGION OR SEX personally, and it hurts to be treated otherwise.

    thank GOD my kids and their friends know different!

  44. Mister Dad,

    I have been studying (actually studying) the Texas Sex Offender database using various SQL queries to determine trends. It is interesting how many people believe there is a stereotype for so-called “sexual predators.”

    Last night I found a female registered sex offender who was 13 when she violently sexually assaulted a 7 year-old female classmate. She is currently ranked as a level 3 offender (which means the state considers her a ‘predator’).

    When I was 5, I was subject to sexual abuse between three females and one male offender. The stereotype just does not hold water. We think if a male is around children, he has to be a pedophile. Yet there ARE female sex offenders out there.

    When I hear a story like yours I often think of this man I knew through my father when growing up. He had been in US Army Special Forces during Vietnam. He has spent the rest of his life following Vietnam around children, trying to teach them. He is not a pedophile for a career around children. He is trying to atone for things about which he prefers not to speak.

    Let’s turn off the idiot box and stop listening to Judge Judy tell us about reality.
    😉

  45. Come on Mister Dad, the vast majority of sexual predators are men. It’s a statistical and biological fact that males are far more prone to commit acts of sexual aggression.

  46. thank you, Sam.

    a side: that’s my wife’s name. and a close friend’s, age 9. she, a brilliant and loving bread-winner. he, an uncanny and imaginative muse, in all rights.

    i truly love kids. they INSPIRE me! we unlearn everything they’ve picked up naturally, and not from us “adults.” it’s pure. and real. and i struggle each year i grow more “adult-ish” to maintain. but it’s altogether worth while. worth everything.

    crazy as it sounds, i live not 500 feet from a “sex offender.” a kind woman, charged in her late teens. i don’t restrict my kids from walking paste her house to go to the park. but then again, i also prepare them with understanding attention, precaution and alertness. but no chains, no over-protection, no imprisonment for the innocent.

    sublime experiences trump mere descriptions, nearly every time.

  47. paste? i meant past. oops….

  48. does that JUSTIFY anything, my sister Jan?

  49. Mister Dad, it justifies everyone to be aware of that fact and to be more cautious around men. I teach my daughters the cold hard facts about the dangers of men and that they should be cautious around them.

    Even Jimmy Carter lusted in his heart…

  50. what’s the statistic on those who are NOT sexual offenders? under .002%? why wouldn’t that hold any water?

    what about charges vs convictions? males are assumed guilty, regardless of given statements of both parties, even.

    seriously, Jan. if you have a kid, you probably married a male. one who is statistically most likely not a pedophile, right? same with my wife’s.

    most causes of infidelity are “statistically” assigned to women. but i’ve been with one woman my entire life. lots of guys have. please don’t lump us into a drastic minority…

  51. Uh, Jan…

    We all lust. Not long ago I was fixing a computer at a nursing station when a new doctor passed by to check on a patient. From what I heard those nurses say, I can attest that we all lust. Even my wife admits that some of her first thoughts when we met were less than biblical. We are human beings–and that means sexual beings. The flaw comes in thinking that sexual offenses are sexual at their core. Sex offenses are grounded in power and control.

  52. No one is lumping you with anyone. But, if we’re to allow our kids to have the freedom to explore their environment, we need to teach them street smarts. You can’t just throw them out there without some information as to the possible dangers.

    They need rules and they need the rationale behind the rule. As an example, I’ve given my daughters frank talks as to why it’s a bad idea to dress in provocative clothing. It’s because men are wired differently than women and get physically aroused with visual stimuli, and that they WILL be more likely to have lewd thoughts about you if you dress in skimpy clothing. That worked with my girls. They need to know the facts.

    Why is it a bad idea to go near a stranger’s car? Because there are sexual predators looking for an easy target. Why do you not sled down the hill into that intersection without a spotter? Because you might get run over by a car.

  53. correction: 0.0008 of Americans are registered sex offenders, both genders.

    personally, i do not want to be assumed one of the “let’s say five-thousandths” of a percent. does any mother want to be assumed one of the other three-thousandths a PREDATOR?!?

    it’s crazy! doctor’s and nurses are high in charges. should we avoid ALL of those? MINISTER rank very high! should we stop going to, or letting our children attend CHURCH?

    don’t give me FEAR-BASED manipulated “facts.” it’s not good for anyone, especially our freaking FUTURE MOMS AND DADS AND LEADERS!!!

  54. Sam— sexual predators get sexual gratification from power and control. They get conditioned to that perverse stimuli in order to get that high. To say that it’s not sexual is psychobabble. It’s all about sexual gratification. The crime is the means toward that goal.

    I happen to be a nurse btw and I’m well aware of the ribald conversations that occur at the nurses station.

  55. I agree, Jan, with your last post. That line of reasoning is why I started reading Lenore’s blog in the first place. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. Let me tell you, common sense comes from not listening to your dad say “Barbed wire is sharp” and landing astradle of a fence. Ouch!

    That said, teaching kids to THINK as both you and Mr. Dad have stated, is imperative. As I said in my first post…waaaaayyyyy up there, I am a registered sex offender. I was a kid when I started my ten-year sentence and I was a 28-year-old adult when I was released from prison. One of my closest friends has three young children. They have been taught how to protect themselves. It is not because I am a registered sex offender that I choose to not be alone with them, IT IS BECAUSE I HAVE NO GOOD REASON TO BE ALONE WITH THEM. I visit their home with my wife and hang out with my friend and his wife because they are adults and understand what I am saying when I complain about bills, taxes and the government. The last time I tried to read those kids my bedtime story about the “Village Idiot who went to Washington to find the WMDs” the kids didn’t find it as interesting…. In fact, my wife has since prohibited me from writing any more impromptu bedtime stories.😉

  56. So mister dad, you have no fear when you’re in a drug-ridden, high crime neighborhood? I hear the real estate is cheaper there, you might save a lot of money by moving. You wouldn’t want to give in to some statistics would you?

  57. One obvious problem with huge sexual offender list is that the dangerous people get treated like the non-dangerous. If you have 10 dangerous people on a list, you can watch for them. If you have 1000 people on a list, you cannot distinguish the 10 dangerous ones from the 990 who are not a problem.

    The best example of this is the Jaycee Dugard case. Her abductor was a truly dangerous offender but when the police visited his house, they assumed he was a run of the mill “offender” and did not do a thorough investigation. If the list was reduce by 99%, he would have been on it and the police probably would have him caught years earlier.

  58. They need rules and they need the rationale behind the rule. As an example, I’ve given my daughters frank talks as to why it’s a bad idea to dress in provocative clothing. It’s because men are wired differently than women and get physically aroused with visual stimuli, and that they WILL be more likely to have lewd thoughts about you if you dress in skimpy clothing.

    1. Women don’t get physically aroused with visual stimuli?

    2. Actually, there’s some research to show that wearing provocative clothing makes you *less* likely to be raped or assaulted because dressing like that = showing more confidence and these guys (remember, rape has nothing to do with lustful thoughts and everything to do with violence) go after easy targets – people who don’t look confident. Other studies show there’s no correlation whatsoever. NO studies show that there’s a positive correlation between skimpy outfits and sexual harassment.

    Why is it a bad idea to go near a stranger’s car? Because there are sexual predators looking for an easy target.

    Except that they are few and far between. Most rapes are not of strangers, but of “friends” and acquaintances.

  59. I forgot what your sexual offense was Sam. Did you reveal that?

  60. You can find more about me on http://x684867.blogspot.com. I told me story in the from the first blog entries and moved through my ten years in prison.

  61. no, no, no, sweet sister.

    you CLEARLY and biasedly stated, that MEN are dangerous.

    it makes me think you have some REAL ISSUES that need healing. and i hope and pray that happens! God forbid if you have a “son” he should be treated any differently. Col 3:11 if you need it, of follow your pure heart if you don’t.

    and speaking on behalf of all brothers, who must apparently reaffirm REAL love to their sisters, I AM SORRY FOR ANY WRONGS COMMITTED BY MY GENDER TOWARDS OUR SISTERS, SEXUALLY. YES, BE ON GUARD OVER WHAT’S BEEN GIFTED TO YOU. BUT USE THAT BEAUTIFUL, NATURAL INTUITION YOU’VE BEEN BLESSED WITH, TOO. AND PROTECT YOUR GIFTS AGAINST ANY HARM, MALE OR FEMALE, BLACK OR WHITE, OLD OR YOUNG. BUT ALSO TO CHARGE AND ALLOW ENLIGHTENMENT OF YOUR GIFTS, SO THEY CAN REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL… and not just our expectations. deal?

  62. And I will second the fact that background checks are ineffective. Lawyers and law enforcement officers will tell you that before a pedophile is actually caught, tried, and convicted, he has molested an average of 50 girls or 150 boys.

    Given that the vast majority of pedophiles go after their own family – siblings, cousins, children and grandchildren – I find that one a little hard to believe. Unless their families are ENORMOUS.

    Well, I’d prefer not to have Ricky chaperone my kids (because I don’t think a 16 year old who has sex with someone he doesn’t even know well enough and hasn’t known long enough even to know how old she is a good role model)

    Wait – is Ricky still 16? I assumed Ricky was a grown-up by now and has now, you know, made more adult decisions. Sheesh, i’d hate to be judged by what I did at 16, I was stupid then!

    Unless I did something really bad, like kill somebody for the lulz, but a little casual sex? Not a great idea, but hardly something I want people judging me on.

  63. That’s true curtis. Those lists give a false sense of security. The rapist of the Dugard girl was pretty bad though and the police didn’t do a very good job of checking out his house. He had locked the victim of his first conviction in a storage unit and raped her over and over again. He had told the police that forced sex was the only thing that could get him aroused.

    It shows how disconnected neighbors are from one another.

  64. I do have 4 sons and they have turned out fairly well, they are adults now.

    Boys, also, can be victims of sexual abuse and those perpetrators are also more likely to be men. There’s nothing wrong with educating kids before hand as to what can happen. There was a big movement to do that back in the 1980s. Before that people used to be unaware that seemingly good people could be possibly dangerous to children.

  65. i really have no fear, friend. i COULD if i allowed myself. it’s in my upbringing.

    but i’ve also developed a keen intuition, and i have encouraged my kids to make GOOD friends, who know me and i them. and they know how important my kids are to me.

    i also know most of my neighborhood. and they all know who i am and where i stand…

    but i also know the sheltered life. it’s limitations. it’s lies that, when realized, make the “unknown” so much more alluring.

    what i’m saying is, you’re really lumping the wrong guy in with your selected statistics. i sleep less than 4 or 5 hours a night, often watching over my children sleeping and the neighborhood not…..

  66. the neighborhood, to see if there’s any activity or not…..

  67. I’ve run the children ministry at our church in the past, and we screened everyone who wanted to work with the kids. I think whenever someone is going to be changing diapers and taking small kids to the potty, pulling pants up and down, it’s not a bad idea. I think with churches especially, because anyone who attends the church (not just parents) are encouraged to sign up for nursery duty. If anything, it gives parents peace of mind when they drop off their kids with nursery workers, who very well could be perfect strangers, for two hours every week.

    At my kids’ school they do a DMV check for all potential drivers for school field trips. I’m not offended at all when they ask me to fill out the form.

    I feel the same way about the background check.

    Just my humble opinion.
    Sandy

  68. What I’m curious about is who exactly is paying for these background checks? That’s exactly what the taxpayers need, another cost to shoulder.

  69. You apparently can’t trust an elderly couple at the library to not chuck their coffee at infants, either.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196087/Health-safety-ban-coffee-morning-pensioners-public-library–spill-hot-drinks-children.html

  70. I’m allowed to volunteer at my kids’ school, but only under supervision. I can not be alone with the kids or do anything more than help out on hot dog day and stuff like that because I haven’t had the background check done. Considering one of the main people usually supervising me is the vp of the pta, its a safe bet they are bending a few rules. Yet, at the same time, the schools are desperate for volunteers. The forms for me to fill out have a letter from the principal waiving the fees for the background check, but that’s not the point. The principal knows the reason why I don’t want to, at least part of it, and he’s understanding. Its the vice president of the pta and head of the volunteers (another woman) who want me to go through it – so I can do more with them. They call it a “formality.” Whatever it is, I know my DH has passed the security clearance background check so that should mean I would pass one, right? But my worry is: what if I don’t? Will I be unable to drop my kids off and pick them up? Will I be able to attend ceremonies or other events? Is there something in my past that would block me because someone who was vindictive to me in ways I don’t dare go into here convinced the police I was a danger to others when, in fact, I’m not?
    I’d rather not know. I’d rather volunteer only on hot dog day. Hey, at least I’m volunteering.

  71. I’ve run the children ministry at our church in the past, and we screened everyone who wanted to work with the kids. I think whenever someone is going to be changing diapers and taking small kids to the potty, pulling pants up and down, it’s not a bad idea.

    Sure, it’s not – but where does it end? Do you also background check the people who are doing nothing more than giving out cookies at the bake sale to third graders?

    Before that people used to be unaware that seemingly good people could be possibly dangerous to children.

    Actually, historically, awareness and fear of pedophiles goes in waves – you have people gradually more aware until awareness trumps reason, and then gradually less aware until their lack of awareness trumps reason, and back again.

    So there were pedophile scares in the 20s and so as well, it’s just that people forget that nowadays.

  72. I volunteer in my son’s primary school. To do so I had to sign two forms – one declaring that I have not been prohibited from working with children, and one giving the school permission to confirm this with the police if they chose to do so. No cost to me, and I know that the school doesn’t bother doing the checks unless they have some reason.

    To supervise kids walking to and from school on the ‘walking bus’ I had to sign the same two forms again.

    This level of checking doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

  73. Just like Leigh, I live in Europe with my military husband. I have 4 kids in two schools. Everyone in both offices know me, every teacher all my kids see know me. My kids attend on base DoDe Schools.

    I can not Volunteer at either school, nor can I apply to be a sub. Why?

    Because not ONLY is there a 10 year background check, the application is more confusing then filing taxes. For the 10 year background check, I have to list 20 different people that knew me at every place I lived. I can get the addresses of every place I lived by going into the military office that holds all our information, because I have been in the military system since I was born. But that is not good enough.

    But Ironically, as long as I do not wish to get credit for Volunteering, I can still hang out and help on field trips. Which I mostly do with my youngest since his aids can not always go.

    And the reason the teachers and everyone knows me is because I am always in the class rooms, just not as a “Volunteer”.

  74. My (honourary) sister and her husband actually pulled their two children out of a very good co-op elementary school for just this reason. The school requires that the parents of every student put in at least 40 hours a month of volunteer work. This summer they announced that they were also going to start requiring background checks before parents were authorised to volunteer.

    Now, there’s nothing criminal for either of these two people to hide. They’re upstanding citizens and amazing parents. However, my sister’s husband is a female to male transsexual. Some very close friends know, as well as both children, but for the most part he prefers to keep his past in the past. A background check would have come up with his birth name, something he was not entirely comfortable with. Beyond the stigma that is attached to transsexuality, both parents were concerned that a less than open minded staff member might use the information to cause problems for their children.

    Rather than worry about the potential backlash, my sister and her husband switched their kids to a more relaxed school a bit further away.

  75. Sky – If you are going to judge people by what they did as teens, then you must have a very limited social circle and your children must have been very restricted in who they came into contact with. Besides, how would a child on a school field trip know what Ricky did when he was a teenager? How would that possibly affect the kind of role model he is today? Is he going to be on the bus bragging about all that sex he had with mere strangers when he was a teen? People need to be more forgiving.

  76. I agree that it’s stupid to require the police checks for parent volunteers and the principal of the school where my kids attend agrees too. However, it’s still required because of insurance reasons. The insurance company is the one forcing the school to do this in my case. It could be a school board policy as well, but even if it wasn’t, the school’s still forced to do it by the insurance company. Which is stupid.

    Last year my oldest was 9 and in grade 4. She had a trip that required a two hour bus ride but they needed a parent volunteer to drive some kids in order to avoid having to rent two buses. The notice that was sent home stated that the parent volunteer will have had a background check but said nothing about checking their driving record. I would think that would be a more important thing to check. Judge me if you will, but I would not let my child be in a van/car for a field trip when there is a safer alternative (in this case, school bus).

  77. On On 9-16-09 Lenore was the guest on American Reality check.

    The Host were Mary and Kevin. Mary is the mother of Ricky mentioned in this article.

    This was a great interview. you can listen here:

    [audio src="http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-29521/TS-261339.mp3" /]

  78. The sweet little (multi-racial, mixed income!) private Christian Academy where my girls attend school in Houston is being FORCED by an insurance co. to install a security check system linked to a multi-state sexual predator database.

    Our ever-so-sane Head Mistress was against it but could not prevail. I’m just sure that “studies have shown” a causal link between parents interested in classical education and…nothing of the sort that this system is for.

  79. “Often we forget that the majority of sex offenders are FIRST-TIME offenders…which is why the registries continue to grow at an alarming rate. One statistic I saw recently put this number at about 7%”

    Ummm…7% is not a MAJORITY. It’s a pretty small minority, actually.

    “First time offender” really just means first time caught, AND tried, AND convicted. It doesn’t mean it’s the first time they ever did it.

    Checking the sex offenders database is not very helpful in preventing a child molester from working with children. As has been pointed out, there are all sorts of consensual “crimes” that end up in the database, but, more importantly, there are pedophiles who aren’t YET in it.

    I’ll concede that the majority of child molesters probably only molest one or two children. But when we’re talking about pedophiles who molest children **OUTSIDE THEIR OWN HOMES** (and this is the only kind of pedophile I’m concerned about, since I trust neither I nor my husband will be molesting our own children), we’re almost always talking about many, many acts before being caught, tried, and registered. That is to say, a *very small* number of pedophiles molest children outside the home, but they molest a large number before being caught. A long term study by the sexual disorder expert Dr. Abel found the average number of boys molested by a male pedophile before being stopped was 150. The average number of girls molested by a male pedophile before being stopped was lower, about 50. (That’s where I am getting this statistic from, but other studies have slightly different numbers – all of them, however, very high.)

    While it is true that women also molest children, statistically speaking, ONLY about 5% of ALL child molesters are women, and therefore it is not unreasonable for parents to be more comfortable with a WOMAN spending time alone with their children than they are with a MAN. I won’t hire a male babysitter, for instance, and I’m not a particularly overprotective, suspicious sort of person in any other area. It’s just with so many female babysitters available, why not prejudicially, preferentially, choose the female, since the statistical chances of molestation are close to zero?

    It’s unfortunate that these very, very small number of pedophiles draw so many men who are interested in working with young children under the microscope, but, unfortunately, they do. There are stronger reasons, however, that there are a declining number of men involved with children as teachers, leaders, etc., and that has more to do with the feminization of education than anything else, but I won’t get into that….

    While I am generally free range, I would be cautious about using statistics to suggest that the chances of a child being molested are extremely low. Sadly, child molestation is a huge, huge problem in our society, though most of it occurs at the hands of relatives. In most studies I have seen, 25-30% of women report they have been molested at some point in their lives, and, judging from a survey of my own friends and acquaintances this seems about accurate. I was certainly sexually bullied, though not precisely molested, by an older child in my own free range childhood, but there was nothing my parents could have done to prevent it. However, I never even felt I could tell them about it. When you are young, there is something in you that says – I will get in trouble, somehow, if I talk about this. Or you’re just too humiliated to talk about it. I hope, therefore, to establish a more open relationship with my own children where they feel more comfortable talking to me about such things. And I approve of school programs that teach children about right and wrong touch at an early age and strongly encourage children to turn to a trusted adult. Not to put the fear in them, but to let them know they don’t have to be afraid to talk about anything that doesn’t feel right. Has child molestation declined at all in the past 10 years as a result of such programs? I have no idea. I’d be interested to see.

  80. the point i was trying to make is this: while prudence and common sense should be exercised, in this case, the VAST majority of men ARE NOT evil, sex offenders.

    i mean, honestly. following that line of thought, the majority of theft is committed by black people. so should we behave more protective of our possessions around African Americans? should we treat all women as potential prostitutes? their gender makes up a HUGE majority of hookers.

    fear and hate breed more of the same, victimizing innocence just as well… if not more so.

  81. Thanks Sky for your common sense post.

    Mister Dad–I feel like people have a right to be prudent without someone laying a guilt trip on them. There are some neighborhoods that happen to be predominantly Black where, yes, I would definitely be more cautious about my possessions, and you’ll notice that you’ll see security guards in the supermarkets in those areas too. It doesn’t mean I’m a racist.

    As far as prostitutes, they aren’t a threat to my kids and they are easy to spot because of their attire and the time of day they walk the streets.

  82. but your caution isn’t just targeted at blacks in “those” areas. is it? crimes happen EVERYWHERE and even in “NICE” neighborhoods. and if you think all prostitutes dress like “streetwalkers” and only in “those” areas, you’re misinformed. plus, they ARE a threat to your kids, unless your have them under 24/7 visual and audio surveillance.

    do you want to treat me differently, just because i’m a male? if you’ve read my other posts, you know i’m quite used to it. i’m still not going to assume anything back.

    but if you do make such a presumption, that’s a shame. because there are a lot of people out there, different than you, who you and your children can be blessed by, learn from, receive help from… or perhaps even bless back, if allowed.

    thankfully, my 500+ young friends look to me as one of the only grown-ups they’ve met who will listen and encourage them, without prejudice to my age, race or gender. i couldn’t be much of any help if they were over-sheltered or taught to hold pre-conditions.

  83. I would like to point out that part of the reason most convicted sex offenders are men is that men are presumed guilty while women are presumed innocent. It’s simply another example of reverse sexism in our society.

    The same is often true of other crimes. Minorities (particularly black and hispanic) are generally considered guilty simply by virtue of their race or socio-economic status. They are also far more likely to be given jail sentences rather than community service or fines.

    Would the numbers still be skewed if everyone was really assumed innocent? No one knows for sure, but I tend to think not.

  84. Mae, Mae – true, it doesn’t really matter years later what he did as a teen. You’re right. I just wouldn’t want him as a “role model”, someone for my son to aspire to be like, if he were *still* acting that way and if he were in a mentoring rather than a volunteer position.

    To clarify for those who were asking – the figure I was refering to was an AVERAGE for child molesters who molest OUTSIDE THE HOME. Most children are molested in the home. My point was just that if a parent is concerned about their child being molested by a non-relative outside the home (a very rare occurence to begin with), background checks are pretty much useless, since molesters who molest non-relatives outside the home have molested over 50 times before being caught.

  85. “the point i was trying to make is this: while prudence and common sense should be exercised, in this case, the VAST majority of men ARE NOT evil, sex offenders.”

    Not even the vast minority are. I was merely saying that men are vastly more likely to be sex offenders than are women (just as they are vastly more likely to be murderers, armed robbers, scientists, mathematicians, and soldiers than are women, and just as women are vastly more likely to drown their children than are men). These things are merely statistical truths, the observation of which has nothing whatsoever to do with prejudice.

  86. no doubt.

    what i PERSONALLY understand is massive reverse discrimination. so it makes me personally sensitive towards partial fact biases.

    of course, in defense of that mindset/worldview, when our experience is limited or reinforced in only a one-sided perspective, our belief systems often have only a singular perception. and while safe and protected it may be, is far from any accurate portrait of reality.

  87. then what purpose does that mere stat serve, Sky.

    it would be like me spouting off at how child neglect is caused mostly by STAY HOME MOMS. far more than working moms, dads or sahds. but the stat attacks all moms, guilty or not.

    i’m equally offended to read how a scientist has discovered some miraculous cure… “and she’s a WOMAN scientist, at that!” pointing out the gender sets up the assumption that either women are not bright enough or don’t belong in the field. it’s as subtle as it is unjust.

  88. Stats can help people make informed decisions. For instance, statistically speaking people who smoke cigarettes have higher rates of lung cancer, COPD, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and numerous other problems. That is a statistical fact that is good to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to light up that next cigarette.

  89. i totally agree. i use stats even to determine our course of education. you are right.

    but there are dangers within, that shouldn’t be ignored: what are the sources? what do they REALLY say? do they reinforce a pick-and-choose validation for an unfounded belief system?

    all i encourage my fellow humankind to do is balance these facts– without bias– and be open to change, if better proof comes along.

    that, and to develop your innate intuition, accurate awareness and sense of potential.

    more can be gained from interaction than lost. that’s another statistic worth exploring…

  90. That is all true, mister dad.

    As to the original topic, I think do think school districts have gone overboard with paranoia and it is over zealous to require background checks on every volunteer.

  91. Fortunately, we have a wise school superintendent. Before retirement, I was a volunteer coordinator. My job was to find volunteers for all non-profit and government agencies in the county. We had a PenPal program which entailed matching about 35 senior citizens with an equal number of 5th grade students in a specific class. We worked with the same teacher for years. Letter-writing was one of the skills children were to learn, and our only personal contact was a school party at the end of the year, where the kids put on a play for their senior pen pals. During the year, they knew only each other’s first names. It was a great program on many levels. Many kids have no elder in their lives, no one to tell them the stories. Many seniors lack purpose, and their monthly letter from the kids was a huge emotional boost.

    And then the laws changed. Each of our pen pals was required to have a background check and a TB test. The background check alone cost $70, and many of our seniors simply couldn’t afford it. I went to our superintendent of schools, who will remain nameless for her protection, showed her exactly how the program worked and explained that all letters would pass, open, through my office. On the spot she called board members for a conference call and we were given permission to continue our program.

    When I was “room mother” in my children’s classrooms, I made a thousand cupcakes for various reasons. Now, the volunteers are required to bring only purchased snacks in containers sealed at the store. I didn’t poison anybody’s kid, and I know mine weren’t poisoned. How did we let this happen?!

  92. […] Trust No One — Especially Not a Parent Volunteering at School Hi Readers — Here’s a round-up of Providence, Rhode Island-area schools that are making their parent […] […]

  93. Here is something that ought to enlighten everyone. Feel free to e-mail it to everyone in your address book

    There is a fury and and sadness inside that I cannot express.

    http://cfcoklahoma.org/New_Site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=204%3Athere-is-a-fury-and-and-sadness-inside-that-i-cannot-express&Itemid=1

  94. Ok, i have a problem with all of the griping on here about background checks!! I do realize that some people have done some stupid or accidental things in their past that show up on the back ground check and that they are totally harmless….BUT there are many professions that require background checks that are not nearly as important as taking care of or working around children. As a parent of a small child in their second year at public school am having a real problem with the volunteers at my childs school. It is obvious that no screening is being done and anyone who wants to volunteer – can! I want to know why? I realize teachers have alot to do and making copies takes away from time they need to be teaching but there has to be a happy medium here…I am concerned! i dont know what the answer is but whining about a background check dont help anything. Suck it up, people have to do alot more than a background check to do jobs not nearly as important as caring for someones child.

  95. Ricky’s mom can be reached by email at rickyslife@windstream.net.

  96. Hmmm, our 7 year old just got an x-ray showing that he broke his ankle while running on the playground at school today.

    Should we sue?

    Should we demand that children never again be allowed to run on the playground there?

    Should we make them sit during recess and sing kumbayah instead?

    It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen and how oblivious most people seem to be about what our children have lost.

  97. The petting zoo thing was mentioned as an aside, but living in the UK I find it very disturbing. It’s not just that under-fives are being discouraged from petting the animals. People are talking seriously about banning under-fives from petting zoos altogether.

    Now let’s put this into a bit of perspective. No-one has died from contracting E. coli O157 at a petting zoo. You have to go back to 2005 to find a case of a child dying from E. coli O157 at all, and that was from eating contaminated meat.

    Of the four farms which have closed attractions following the recent cases of infection, only one (Godstone Farm) has actually been shown to have infected anybody. One of the others is owned by the same people as Godstone Farm, and the remaining two have had a few cases of infection amongst visitors but haven’t been shown to be the cause.

    So we have one farm where some children have caught an (admittedly nasty) bug, no-one has died, and people are talking about an exceedingly drastic response.

    Fortunately, most people are rightly up in arms over the idea that small children shouldn’t be allowed to pet animals, and the Government guidelines are not being changed. So far. There’s a review of the outbreak under way and the committee might well feel the need to be seen to be doing something. I just hope they see more sense than Professor Pennington.

  98. These are fury and sadness insides that I cannot express.

  99. yyeah we love our childeren trust no one !

  100. Sex Offenders in Society

    The issue of how to treat sex offenders causes unease for many people. Highly publicized crimes of the most heinous nature have understandably led to aggressive state and federal sanctions for sex offenders. These policies include sex offender registries, residency restrictions, and ineligibility for types of employment and licensing.

    Reactionary policies have resulted in unjust and unsafe consequences.

    http://cfcoklahoma.org/New_Site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=210%3Asex-offenders-in-society&Itemid=1

    Well worth the read.

  101. We are about to get into a situation with our school, that has just implemented background checks for volunteering parents. Our kids go to a private school.
    Here’s the issue. We are refusing do do the checks. We consider it an invasion of personal privacy, and an insult to our common sense. These checks have NOTHING to do with safety and everything with limiting the liability of insurance companies.
    But our school is saying that without the checks, we cannot volunteer in our children’s classrooms, work on the school plays, or go on field trips. BUT we can work with kids at the schools fundraisers, manning booths at carnival’s doing arts and crafts, etc.
    We are asking for consistency. If we can’t be in the classroom how come we can be in a game booth? The answer we get is that there are too many people at a large event for a molestation to take place. WHAT ???
    No one can answer how this keeps our children safe. No one can answer us when we ask, what about the offender with no record? What about the offender who just hasn’t acted yet?
    And what happens when the school uncovers a sexual predator? Do they release their name? If they don’t does my kid go to their house for a sleepover?
    What kind of an atmosphere of suspicion and fear are we buying into?
    No one wants to discuss these things. They just sign on the dotted line, grouch a little bit, and then go along with the invasion.
    It is just beyond me how thinking people do not believe they have any say.

    And if I hear one more time that if you have nothing to hide, then why would you object????
    The whole thing is amazing.

  102. Great insight.
    What a relief and reminder that good people abound everywhere that a little freedom and common sense is observed.

    Thanks for the great article. As a very frustrated parent myself, the PC atmosphere of constant panicking reminds me of the two old crones in Alice in Wonderland, who shout,”Serpent!!”.

    As a result, our materialistic school systems have produced another predictable phenomenon: Disregard to real threat.

    Ever see the child laughingly run into traffic as the mother frantically shouts? Society is actually creating a unrealistic disregard to any real threat by making everything a perceived threat. Real threats are no longer discernible.

    I was teaching at a school where two teachers were hauled off to jail for having sex with a student. Oh, these women were having sex with the same student, who sought them out and ‘played them’.

    That was according to the students in that school who all seemed to know what was going on.

    Like women who pursue dangerous relationships thinking that societal restrictions will somehow protect them, these kids think it’s funny to ‘play’ adults.

    It gives them a sense of power over all adults knowing that they can do whatever they want and if corrected can shout “Serpent!” and have every nanny withing a 50 mile radius come running to their rescue. And, imagine the rush when one child actually succeeds.

    Our children used to be kept safe with three things:
    1. a strict moral code
    2. code reinforced by a father in the home
    3. a society that supported the family

    Once the father has been removed from the solution, the nanny government rushes in and shouts, “Serpent!” and we give them our last freedoms. Willingly.

  103. I am running into this ordeal right now and it is really stressing me out. I said I would like to go in my sons field trip at a pumpkin farm. 3 days before the trip I get a volunteer form in my son homework which asks if i have ever been arrested/ convicted of crime with alcohol or drugs. The answer is yes I got a DUI last year which has been the most humiliating exp of my life. I rarely drink and went out to celebrate my girlfriends birthday had 2 beers got pulled over and just blew over the limit. Now I was not about to put yes and explain my charges which are going in my sons homework packet for my sons teacher to see as well as whoever else gets their hands on it. I lied and said no and knowing that they will find out about it with the background ck and getting caught for lying is killing me. I got a pbj so technically I was found not guilty and still be able to go on the field trip. I am just scared thatcwhwn I go to school tomorrow they are going to call me out for not filling the form out corectly and will upset me and ny child. I just think they are putting way to much pressure on people. All I want to do us go with my 5 yr old son to a pumpkin farm. I don’t see why I should have to go through this. My neighbor told me her husband was arested for marijuana 30 years ago and was found guilty. He just tried to go on a field trip with his daughter and was denied the priviledge. He is totally drug and alcohol free and it a pastor at his church. I think the schools are going a little overboard.

  104. This one seems tricky. But I think if ya follow your heart, it’ll say to come clean and be honest. It seems bad now, and it’s easy to freak out about, but in the larger scheme of things it matters less. If it IS a big deal, our foundation of the relationship we have is dangerously unstable. Our kids learn from our responses.

    I’ve fallen on my face — or backside — a few times, and the best thing I can show my kids is compassion and honesty. When it comes around, they’re honest with me as well, and appreciate that I’ve admitted to mistakes and find the integrity to live with them, too. Even if certain rules seem silly or driven by fear or over-caution. Grace and forgiveness is something for US to exercise. Whether or not the other side extends it should not cheapen ours.

    Take heart, friend.

  105. […] Range Kids and of the blog by the same name who has long argued that we need to get some sanity. On school background checks she […]

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