How to Make Parents Feel Angry & Distrusted

Hi folks! Just a reader’s follow-up note to the post below this one on mandatory fingerprinting for Little League volunteers:

Dear Free-Range Kids: The school district where we live is requiring that all parent volunteers be fingerprinted starting next year.  If you want to help in the classroom at all (which the teachers heavily rely on), you have to pay $20 and be fingerprinted.  Same applies for field trip chaperones or moms and dads wanting to go to the Valentine Party for 15 minutes.  My husband takes work off annually to do a presentation at school for kids about bike safety…he will now have to PAY to do this. I think it’s beyond ridiculous and unfortunately the schools are going to lose a lot of free help, including mine.  As others have said….when there are no longer willing adults to support these activities maybe the rules will change. — A Reader

91 Responses

  1. Such a problem indeed. How do we keep up a proper level of security theater to satisfy certain parties that we’re protecting the children without scaring off the help the schools need?

  2. Yes, I’m afraid I’d have to politely decline the opportunity. What ever happened to being presumed innocent until proven guilty?

  3. So, does this mean no more Winter Shows (singing of non-denominational carols,) no more kinder or elementary graduation parties, because not all of the parents and grandparents and others have been vetted? All of these things have been held during school hours at schools that I have been to.

    How did they decide to do this? Did they do a poll of parents to see if the wanted this and how they would respond?

    What if a parent can’t afford to pay? Will they have a scholarship for parents who qualify for free/reduced lunches?

    How do they do parent teacher conferences now? What about IEP meetings that are a legal requirement? People have to walk through the halls – they might have access to a child! Cooties might rub off!

    Yup, this certainly leads parents to think that they are an important part of their kid’s education. Do all this homework with your kids. Read these AR books and nothing else. Do huge projects that require a library visit (because the school library is closed due to cuts) but never, ever, set foot in this school. Unless you pay the fee, of course.

    And this will not stop any kids from being molested. Not that I can think of a time that a kid accused an adult helping at a school of molesting – it always seems to be the teacher that has already been through the checks and such and has never offended before. Parents want to abuse a kid will just invite the kid to their house, not do it at school. At home, there is much more privacy.

    This just makes some teacher’s jobs harder. The ones who want volunteers. The ones who don’t want parents to see how the are actually (mis)treating the kids will find that they now do not have to be on guard as much and can act like Miss Trunchbull at will.

  4. I think the Wobbly response is the only thing that can solve situations like this: Education, Organization, Emancipation. (A little bit firmer version of Alinksy’s Educate, Agitate, Organize; with organization not as the end goal, but as the pathway to freedom).

    The parents need to not only stop volunteering, but actively work to get other parents to stop volunteering, inform parents of new students of the situation and stop them from volunteering, inform the community about the absurdity of the situation, write letters to the editor, show up at school board meetings and demand that all board members be fingerprinted (and bring a fingerprint kit along to do it right then and there), picket activities at which you would normally be volunteering with signs that say “we refuse to be treated like criminals for wanting to help our children’s teachers”, etc. Get the teachers on your side, especially if they have a union to back them up. Your theater has to be as strong as theirs, and your resolve has be be stronger. If you can actually get somebody or a group arrested for civil disobedience, especially if it is a small town and you can pack the jail to overflowing with parents willing to let the police fingerprint them at the public expense rather than pay to let the school district do it, that would be really strong.

    As Ralph Chapin wrote in Solidarity Forever, “What force on earth is weaker, than the feeble strength of one?” You have to organize for strength and then you *can* win.

    My daughter is 1, and I know I am going to face this kind of BS and absurdity someday, but I also know that I have no intention of complying with it and will fight tooth and nail for my, and her rights.

  5. Everyday I have another reason not send my kids to government schools. I hope vouchers pass in my area before my kids are school age.

  6. At my daughter’s school any non-parent volunteer has to be fingerprinted. As of yet, parents do not need to be. However, I don’t think it will be long before they make that the requirement. We do have to attend a mandatory training before we are able to step food in the classroom, which can pretty much be boiled down to common sense. Schools constantly talk up the need for parent volunteers and in the same breath provide a list of ten hoops they need to jump through. Pretty soon they are going to be left with no one willing to put up with all of this.

  7. Y’know, both of my parents have been very heavily involved with school P&C, charity work and volunteering ever since my brother and I started school (I’ve been out of school for a few years now, brother’s still in high).

    During that 15 years or so, neither they nor anyone else involved with those things has had to be fingerprinted or background checked or whatever the hell else. Nobody has ever abused the kids, either.

    In almost all cases, there is at least one teacher or school official of some sort hanging around while the volunteers etc do their bit. The volunteers use the staff bathrooms, take their leisure in the staffroom, and the rest of the time they’re with a teacher of some sort. In all my years of school I don’t think I was ever in a situation where any sort of abuse from non-official adults could occur, being in either a large group of children or having an official present.

    My dad did, however, have to undergo some background checks for Red Cross volunteer work – as that sort of thing could involve him having contact with highly vulnerable people, in a more closed and less controlled setting. The Red Cross has a mantra – “never alone with children”.

  8. I have volunteered in many situations where the question “are you willing to undergo a police check” is part of the initial screen. My answer is always yes. I don’t think it’s ever actually happened — but I think the willingness to be transparent is very important for people who work, paid or otherwise, with children, just as it is for those who work with, say, money. Though no one has ever asked for my fingerprints, in Canada.

    Maybe the budget answer is to do random checks rather than check every person. Would we be so upset about the money if the $20 went to some sort of educational event about working with children respectfully? Wouldn’t have to just focus on abuse, respect — or lack thereof — comes in many forms.

    @ Greg — I agree that the solution is to educate, I don’t agree that stopping volunteering is the answer. That only hurts the kids. I like the “never alone with children” mantra. That would protect the kids from abusers (who do like their privacy) and the adults from suspicion. Problem solved.

  9. Our school requires all clearances and backround checks plus fingerprinting to help out in any way. The total cost is $60! It’s incredibly frustrating as a parent who enjoys being active in her childrens’ lives. I’m really sad that they decided to take this route. I know many parents who were unable to accompany their child on field trips or even volunteer for a class party because of this. I find it very unnecessary for everyone to have to do that.

  10. Oh and by the way they have to be renewed each and every year!!

  11. Wow. I guess they can’t complain when their volunteer list goes way down next year. I had to be fingerprinted to substitute teach and work at a daycare. I thought it was overkill but whatever. I was forced to do it twice even though once you are in the records you stay in the records. I wonder if they would make me redo it if I wanted to volunteer at the school? Are they sure they are not getting a kickback on this?

    Since I want to be an involved parent I would suck it up and pay it if they made me, but I would let them know how unhappy I was about it.

  12. We have not got the fingerprint bit over here yet. Bet it won’t be long though!

  13. April, Kiera: Seriously, if they’re charging $60 for background checks you’d be perfectly entitled to approach the non-volunteering parents and ask them to chip in. After all, it’s their kids who supposedly benefit from you being vetted.

  14. I’m with Greg and don’t agree that to stop volunteering would only “hurt the kids”. There is something bigger — and more harmful to our children — at stake here.

    “When we rip apart the social fabric that keeps us connected, we are all endangered.”

    (From the “Psychology Today” piece Lenore tweeted, specifically about urban development, but particularly relevant here.)

  15. The school board is requiring this OR the school boards’ INSURANCE COMPANY is requiring this?
    Why is an Insurance Company telling EDUCATORS how to do their jobs?
    Why are you parents LETTING them???!!!

  16. Anthony, on April 11, 2011 at 11:50 said:
    Everyday I have another reason not send my kids to government schools. I hope vouchers pass in my area before my kids are school age.

    That’s probably the impetus behind these outrageous demands – to promote vouchers.

    How long do you think it will take for private schools to be forced into accepting the same requirements to appease “insurance” demands?

    Don’t be such a sheep.

    The industrial revolution is over and so is the demand for publicly educated workers. How long before the “voucher class” becomes the only educated class?

    Take heed of what’s left of your own public education and demand more from your publicly sponsored schools before it’s too late.

  17. When I taught in a public charter school in FL, parents were required to pay the $60 for the background check if they were going to be in the classroom for an extended period of time (ie: working on a craft project with children). Teachers hated it. It cut down on our lower income grandparent help. They and the children’s parents could not afford to pay for the background checks. Admin wouldn’t listen to us. They didn’t have to go through the difficulties of the classroom. They could sit in their offices and worry about possibilities.

  18. ” What ever happened to being presumed innocent until proven guilty?”

    That went out the door when the pedophile witchunt started. A single male can no longer walk past a school or even be on the same sidewalk as kids or he’s branded a pedophile and people try to drive him away from his home (or have him arrested on dubious charges).
    With the ever increasing scope of what’s considered child abuse, it’s also quite possible to be guilty without ever having done anything to a child.
    Do you have photos of your sister’s children wearing swimwear? You could be convicted of having child porn! Ever looked out of an upstairs window and spotted the neighbourhood kids playing in the pool? You’re a stalker and pedophile staking out victims. Etc. etc.

  19. In my country, everyone’s fingerprints are taken by the authorities. We’ve got an Identity Document, mandatorily issued no later than age 14. It contains information such as name, address, date of birth, parents’ names…
    And no, no-one thinks very much of it. It’s used for identification purposes only (like your driving license, or Social Security number), and it’s just a reasonable way for censing population.
    As for volunteering parents, don’t make me laugh. If anyone should ever bother to offer themselves as volunteer for anything, they would probably be frowned upon for “stealing someone’s job”. So teachers take about 30 kids to the zoo single-handed and you know what? Nothing happens! No battles to death among them, no child permanently lost, no-one being fed to the hyenas while teacher’s looking the other way…

  20. The admin of this school needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, “We don’t work for you, you work for us”

  21. My husband, who has a very common name, volunteered and agreed to a background check. It came back as “suspicious”, and he was told that he was not permitted to enter the school until they had a chance to review it. Apparently, someone with the same exact name is currently incarcerated in another state for a serious rape charge and serving a 20 year sentence. The criminal is also African American and 300 lbs., my husband is white and 160. Also, HE IS NOT IN JAIL!

    After another meeting, they cleared up the mix up (what a waste of time) and we still volunteer. I have little faith that any of these fear mongering tactics will make the school any safer, especially with idiots wasting the time of innocent parents like us.

  22. Like Lola, I live in a country where there are no parent volunteers in the schools. Teachers regard the school and classroom as their domain and would question the sanity of a parent who wanted to volunteer in the classroom. Like the place where Lola lives, teachers take a class of 30 kids to the theater, library, on a class hike, or sledding without parent volunteers. I haven’t heard of any major mishaps, though my son told me that his teacher missed a turn on a ski run and got separated from the students during the Winter Sports Day last month. About 15-20 minutes later the teacher and the kids she was supervising were reunited and they all had a good laugh over it (before heading up, the teacher told the kids to stay with the group and not to get lost).

    Just because parents don’t volunteer in the classroom doesn’t mean they’re uninvolved with their children’s education or lives. There are special information nights where the homeroom teacher tells the parents what’s happening with the class. Teachers are also available during their weekly conference periods and by e-mail. There are also special nights set up for working parents to come and speak with the teachers.

    Getting back on topic, I think that it’s crazy to ask someone to pay to become a volunteer, especially a lower income parent or grandparent. My husband volunteers with the on-base ski program that’s run through the American school. Every year he must have a background check, but it’s free through the military police. He must also take a class on child abuse awareness, which he says is plain common sense. I think if he had to pay to become a volunteer, he wouldn’t do it and neither would a lot of the parent volunteers who make up the bulk of the instructors and assistants.

  23. How receptive would the other parents be to a “strike”? Going it alone, well, that would only be one volunteer lost. If the teachers noticed that dozens of parents aren’t helping out they’ll complain loud enough for the board to hear.

  24. I have always been a stay-at-home mom. As soon as my first was in kindergarten, I started attending the PTO meetings. After a year I was asked to be on the board. Since then, I have been on a PTO board in some position almost every year for the last 10 years. Besides that, I’ve chaired or worked at the book fairs, holiday gift shops, and all of the other fun and fundraising events at all of the schools (elementary, middle and now high school). If I had to pay every year to be a volunteer, I’d be broke and we would have NO volunteers to work at these events. It’s hard enough today with all of the parents that work to actually get a body in the door, let alone a fingerprinted one.

    In addition to the school volunteering, there’s church and the kids sports. One of the reasons I don’t work is so that I can be available to volunteer. The same way I don’t expect to be paid (someone actually once asked what the pay scale was for being on the PTO board!) I also expect to be respected. If you don’t want my help, tell me and I’ll go away. So will all the money we generate for the extras that the budget doesn’t cover, but don’t insult me by telling me it’s for safety reasons.

  25. Unfortunately, I think that if parents stop volunteering because of these crazy rules and requirements it will not lead to changes in those rules and requirements. I suspect what will happen is that the activities that parents used to participate in and services they provided will simply cease to exist.

    The only real solution is for us parents to start pushing back, gently, but pushing back nonetheless. Schools need to hear from the families that their over-active safety policies do more harm than good.

  26. To be an adult leader in the Boy Sprouts of America, one is required to take annual training in “youth protection,” in the form of a short online class. The message of the training can be boiled down to the same “never alone with children” as mentioned above for Red Cross. Parents who volunteer their time to work with a Scout troop sometimes chafe at the requirement, but at least it’s short, it’s free, and it can be done at a convenient time without having to leave the house. It also seems much more effective than fingerprinting at keeping kids safe–it reminds us what the rules are and provides some practical guidance for avoiding situations that could get one into trouble. (And these days, “trouble” is much more likely to come from someone making false accusations than anything actually happening.)

  27. @Robin-
    Very well said.

    I believe the saying is “never look a gifthorse in the mouth.” Volunteering needs some respect and value, just like safety.

  28. @SgtMom — Well said and RIGHT ON!

  29. I never remember my parents volunteering when I was growing up, and when we had field trips or special events, I remember there were few, if any, parents there to help out. I think volunteering is a great thing, but I also think that in our schools it has been taken to an extreme. Like other forms of competitive parenting, I sometimes get the impression if I don’t volunteer at my children’s school (not that they’re in school right now) that I will be viewed as a bad mom. Perhaps instead of asking why we should be vetted for volunteering, we should be asking why our schools are in such need of free help when, according to the government, more is spent per child on education than any other country in the world. Where is this money going? Why can certain classrooms only afford a single ream of paper per school year for a class of 30 kids? No wonder the schools have been leaning on parents to do more and spend more. Before we complain about $20 or $60 for vetting, let’s look at how much we give to the schools in the form of supplies and time. Then we need to demand to know where all of this money is being spent and why it’s being spent by the same people who now insist parents are to dangerous to help out.

  30. sue, I could be pretty comfortable in a world where teachers mostly handled things the way you describe. I grew up in that world right here in the U.S. — chaperones/volunteers were pretty much only used if there was a major undertaking — a field trip involving a long bus ride or an overnight stay — but even then, it was probably only one or two parents in addition to the teacher for an entire class, at most.

    But the problem we have now is that “school volunteering” has become socially equated with “being a good parent” — but at the same time, it’s being made increasingly difficult with nonsense restrictions like these. The effect I see is family life becoming increasingly subservient to school life. When I was a kid, parents sent their kids to school, and for the most part, did whatever they did in their adult lives, without further reference to the school. Of course there was the occasional conference or school event that parents would attend for the benefit of the kids, but it was quite limited. Now, it seems like the whole family signs up when a kid goes to school. Evenings are expected to be devoted to homework, all night, every night (for the whole family!), parents are expected to volunteer for kids in elementary school on a regular basis and “step up” whenever the slightest out of the ordinary thing is done by a secondary school kid; be available to help with “projects” and taxi kids all over town for teacher-assigned “group work” outside school hours; furnish all kinds of elaborate supplies for “special projects” — the list goes on and on. Now, we add getting parents “clearances” previously only reserved for people involved in sensitive or fiduciary job situations. There’s a move, whether intentional or not, to insist that good parents do increasingly more in order to be “good parents,” but keep making it harder. It’s ugly.

    It’s just another reason I’m glad I opted out of elementary school for kids entirely and homeschooled/am homeschooling them through the 8th grade. None of those things were my motivation, nor am I saying it’s the answer, nor am I saying I wouldn’t willingly do *any* of those things, but I’m just glad I evaded all that constant expectation stuff. (Mostly — the taxiing and special projects still crop up, but at least it’s pretty limited.)

  31. “When I was a kid, parents sent their kids to school, and for the most part, did whatever they did in their adult lives, without further reference to the school.”

    By this don’t mean that parents were uninvolved in their kids’ education and didn’t pay it any attention — just that it was done as a “parenting responsibility,” on the parents’ own schedule and according to their own judgment, not as thought the parents were an “arm of the school,” the way it seems now.

  32. I went through this with my kids’ school last year. The only reason why I did it was because the entire process was free. If it had cost me one penny, I would have said NO and told them exactly way – paying to volunteer is not volunteering. I don’t know what it is, but it is not in any way shape or form an act of volunteerism.

  33. Are there any actual cases of molestation of a child by an adult? If not, why solve a problem that doesn’t exist?
    If yes, would/could that have been prevented if the adult in question’s fingerprints had been on record? If not, why solve the wrong problem?
    If fingerprinting could really have prevented it, it’s probably a sad necessity, but why let the parents pay? If the school thinks it’s necessary, the school should fund it.
    I for one would forgo volunteering, because I take offense at being under suspicion by default.h

  34. @Sue — not to forget, the overnight school trips the teachers here take with the kids — sans parent vols. Now THAT’S a lovely break for the parents! Soo fantastic the teachers here are willing to take that on. Bless em. And the kids, well, LOVE LOVE LOVE it, of course. Wonderful idea, great thing. That alone makes me so glad my child is being raised here.

    Wouldn’t ya know, an American woman I know here refused to let her child go on the “right of passage” one they do here for the last year of Kindergarten – “An overnight without Mommy or Daddy, and I did it! I’m a big kid and ready for school!” They bent the rules and said she could come for the first night (I think it was a two night trip), because they were so sad for her child to have to miss out. So she went. And when she left (after a day) she insisted her daughter did, too. Sigh.

  35. RobynHeud – I volunteer because I can. I don’t expect anyone else to, or look down on anyone because they don’t. I have never been a classroom volunteer because I really don’t like working with kids. I much prefer adult company. Yes, the time spent in the schools is more than it was 50 years ago, but that doesn’t make it bad. Our PTOs raise money for assemblies and field trips that the district can’t pay for. Their money is spent on all of the services that the state mandates but doesn’t pay for.

    My son is involved with the high school Robotics team. It’s an after school club but it’s very expensive. They were just in Virginia for 4 days (won 1st place, thank you!). There’s no way the school could pick up that tab. They paid for the bus to get them there (we’re in NJ). The fundraising the parents do helps to make the trips affordable to those that may not be able to go. This program didn’t exist 50 years ago but to say it shouldn’t exist just because it requires some volunteers to help is short-sighted.

    North of 49 – Was it free for you or did the school pay for it? Either way it’s your money. If the local police station did it for free, that’s also time spent on that that they could have been doing other things. There is no such thing as free.

  36. As was mentioned above, the Boy Scouts require all adults to take the “youth Protection” training. This is new this year. Before, only leaders had to take it. Before that, it was suggested, not mandatory like now. Boy Scouts have always believe in “2 deep” leadership, never leaving 1 adult with 1 or more children. Adult volunteers also have to submit to background checks through social security # & driver’s license #. This is still not foolproof- unfortunately things can still happen. But ultimately we want our children safe. I’ve been associated with Boy Scouts for 35 years.
    Teachers & Child Care Providers also have to be fingerprinted & background checked

  37. @Anthony The private schools (at least the 3 that I know of) require a back ground check as part of getting in the school. The parents who volunteer (one is a basketball coach, another heads up a tutoring program) had to submit finger prints and to background checks. I don’t think this irrational fear is limited to one style of school.

  38. What I don’t understand is that, like the Little League, the vast VAST majority of the volunteers are parents. The very same people the schools are sending the kids home to every afternoon!! If these are good, trustworthy people from 3pm to 8am the next morning, and all day on weekends, why do they need to be fingerprinted, investigated, and vetted for a volunteer activity during school hours?

  39. This isn’t just a public school thing (to whoever was talking about sending their kids to private school). My kids spent 3 years at a Catholic school and to volunteer in any way (field trips, class helper, lunch monitor, flyer lady only working in the office, BINGO night in the church where there were no kids) you HAD to have a complete police background check and sit through a 3 hour virtus course about being a good roll model, etc, etc. I refused to do it and therefore never once stepped foot inside the school besides PTC, open houses and the occasional party I was invited to (like Kindergarten parents’ night and graduation, Christmas concert, etc).

    And they wondered why more parents didn’t volunteer. I have no idea if fingerprinting is part of the police check but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was eventually added (although we didn’t have to pay for the background check, as far as I know).

    On the flip side they now go to a public school and their policy is that at least 2 weeks before you want to volunteer you have to come in and tell them so they can do a quick background check. You just fill out a quick form (I guess, haven’t done it yet) and that’s it. Compared to the Catholic school this process is pretty painless. They actually have an overabundance of volunteers and you have to sign up the first week for the choice activities (class parties, field trips, etc) and they have actually turned parents away. Funny how that works…more safety = less involvement.

  40. Common sense is now off the Endangered Species list. The final surviving modicum just gasped it’s last breath.

    The fable about walking into the cellar and an ax falling on one’s head confused me as a child. These days, I see the truth in it.

  41. @Robin: the parents about 5ish years ago raised a fuss here and the schools realized it would be a loss of a ton of volunteer manhours which the schools rely on in order to save money for their bare bones budgets. So, either the legislative body realized it was an unfair burden themselves or got a clue by four and made it so that so long as a letter was provided, the check was free to the volunteer.

    Doesn’t mean I liked having to go through it.

  42. To volunteer with Girl Guides, we need to get a police clearance check. It is free for volunteers (not if you have to get it done for work) and very easy. I don’t mind doing it in the least. This check is mandated by law for those working with vulnerable people, which includes all minors and senior citizens. The leaders of course have to do it as well. To the poster who said it is not free, I agree that we pay for this with our tax dollars and I have no objection to this.

    Would this not accomplish the same thing as fingerprinting? I mean, I am assuming they are going to run your prints and see if you’ve ever been arrested. Maybe they think it’s less hassle for parents to just give your fingerprints at the school/Little League gathering instead of having to go to the police station and get the clearance? It might be less hassle, but certainly is invasive and offensive to the average law-abiding person.

    I have several friends who were molested by coaches and other adults in positions of trust. It may appear as if the situation could never arise, as everyone seems in the company of other adults at all times, but this is not always the case. I agree that things can get out of control, and I’m all for free range kids, but…

  43. Janina, I’m sorry that happened to your friends.

    But I wonder… would background checks have helped? Were these men already convicted of molestation and/or rape?

    Because if they weren’t, the checks would have done nothing. Worse, they would have given everybody a false sense of security – “Oh, he’s okay, if he weren’t we’d know from the background check!” Worse still, people without a dangerous bone in their bodies may have been prevented from volunteering because of doing things which are certainly unlawful, but probably not really criminal – like peeing behind a bush, or having consensual sex with their girlfriend who was 2 years younger than they were.

    The last is not a necessary failure of sexual offender lists, but unfortunately, the way they are now makes them worthless even if background checks ARE useful.

  44. I’m confused – what is fingerprinting supposed to prevent, exactly? Is the school going to then use those prints to do background checks on everyone? Because that costs more than $20.

    Seems to me like the only good fingerprinting would do is giving you a database to go to in the event that the absolute worst thing happened…but then you’ll get a lot of false positives because all of those fingerprints had a legit reason to be in the school.

    A better way would be to have a sign in sheet so you know who was in the school when, and a copy of that person’s drivers license. But I’m sure that’s already being done so the fingerprints are beyond reason.

  45. If I recall correctly, the local Boy Scouts did not require of me an application for a background check when I volunteered to supervise at summer camp. This was 2002 or ’03.

    They DID require a current physical – to which I submitted at my cost (fiest such exam in many years for me).

    BSA’s tactic to prevent molestation was that no adult was ever permitted to supervise alone – “for your own protection” it was explained.

    Protection against false accusation was the implication.

    Seemed sensible to me in the current fear-laden, lawsuit-happy environment.

  46. Do schools do background checks on all teachers and administrators and staff? Just curious…

  47. Personally I like the pay-to-play idea. Lets do that to the idiots who are supporting these crime registries. Pay to view the drug, gun, sex offender, murderer, DUI, meth makers, animal abusers, and the other registries out there. Why should everyone pay for the fear of the few dipsticks who support it?

  48. Do schools do background checks on all teachers and administrators and staff? Just curious…

    Comments are suggesting YES.

    Which in and of itself isn’t such a bad thing… except that the teachers seem to often have to pay for them themselves, and they have to keep submitting new ones. Why not get just ONE and have it be good forever, or at least a decade or so?

  49. And incidentally, background checks for people who will spend 6 hours a day with your child is “not necessarily a bad thing”. Background checks for every random volunteer who wants to spend half an hour in the office collating paper? Stupidity squared.

  50. LOL! I was waiting for this dumb ass authorities to start implementing the “cash cow” in to their fear mongering tactics. It was just a matter of time. F’n opportunists. And I’m pretty sure part of that $20 is for the fingerprinting. Useless on both fronts. Maybe all these parents who appose this, should start their own league. Where kids can actually be kids, and parents can enjoy their children playing without having to feel like they are “pedophiles”.

  51. @Uly: I’ve often wondered that myself. So if school staff does get a background check, how do so many get away with their behavior and sometimes abuse. IF they are getting background checks, it’s not very thorough. IMO, psychological background testing should be part of it, not just financial, medical (drug testing) and police records. Personally, I find psychological far more important than anything else.

  52. I know when you get a government security clearance, at the top secret level, they’re usually good for 7 years. Of course, they talk to everyone you’ve ever known including grade school teachers, but then at the secret level, which is a step down and with a lot less information gathering, it’s good for ten years. Why is a simple background check only good for a year? Especially since while you’re working there, I’m sure the school would find out if you were suddenly being charged with molestation/abuse.

  53. ] Now, it seems like the whole family signs up when a kid goes to school.

    Amen to that. I feel expected to be so involved. I do mostly behind the scenes help because I have a younger kid and it just isn’t that easy to be in the classroom with kid in tow. But I keep hearing how everyone else’s mom is in the classroom (and seeing moms who say – oh, I didn’t know who such and such’s mom was because I haven’t seen you in the classroom…).

    I thought I’d get some measure of my life back, start pursuing my own plans and goals and projects when my kids went to school. But it’s Sign up for this, sign up for that, organize this, organize that, bake this, bake that, help with set up here, clean up there, chaperone here, make this costume for this special day, and this costumer for that special day, etc…Some outfit did a survey and asked what people’s primary source of community was. School came in above church or neighborhood. This is supposed to be our world now, I guess, except it’s a community that just tells us what to do and leaves us feeling horribly guilty if we say no – or lowers our child’s grades if we say no. I do wish parents could step back from their involvement in school, but, to do that, they’d also have to TRUST the schools, and I can understand why a lot don’t. And with all this – I can understand why many choose to home school. It accomplishes all the education and involvement in under four hours a day. Not the choice for me, but, I can see the appeal of the free time it leaves for your kids.

    And can I just say I HATE group projects? Just rate my kid as an individual, okay? He can learn to work in groups in sports, drama, band – whatever. He doesn’t need to do Algebra in a group. He needs to learn it for himself. Thank you.

    And elemenrary projects a kid can’t do himself? Forget it. I tell the kid do it yourself, yours will look bad compared to eveyrone else’s whose parents did it, be proud you did it all yourself! And she is. And grades don’t matter in elementary school. And the teacher can tell whose parents did it and whose didn;t and has never downgraded her anyway.

    ] This isn’t just a public school thing

    No, it’s probably an equal mix of public and private schools that do and do not require such things. NEITHER the public school I sent my kid to last year NOR the private one my kid goes to this year required any background check, fingerprints, or anything of that sort for parent volunteers. The only requirement at the private school is if you are driving kids for a field trip you have to submit a copy of your license and sign some form saying you understand the rules . That was it. They do need parent involvement if there is to be field trips because they don’t have school buses – so parents drive 8 kids per minivan and you have a 1:8 chaperone ratio on field trips.

  54. How does this “requirement” work in areas where they are also “requiring” volunteering (a joke in itself)?

    Oh, and as for the ones that want to apply it to parents as well as non-parent volunteers – what happens if the parent had an offense in the past? Is he banned from his own child’s school? And if not, then what exactly is the point of all this??

  55. “This is supposed to be our world now, I guess, except it’s a community that just tells us what to do and leaves us feeling horribly guilty if we say no”

    We’re getting a bit off the subject here, but that’s nailed what bugs me about it. Obviously, as homeschooler, I did the equivalent of all those things we’ve talked about — but not because I’ve just been treated as someone whose job it is to be “assigned” certain duties by the school. The school-parent relationship has turned more from a team effort, into one side imposing expectations upon the other with socially-imposed guilt being the consequence of not meeting them,

  56. My kids go to a private school. They do a background on any volunteers. No finger printing though. It does not cost any extra for the volunteer and lasts 2 years. It does not bother me.

  57. Steve – in the State of Arizona, a person must have an Identity Verified Prints Finger Print Clearance Card to receive their teaching certification from the State. This costs $69.

    I’m not sure if ANYONE who works at a school (lunch lady, crossing guard, etc) has to have this, but those in an ‘Certified” position must have one.

  58. @ Elissa: in principal if certain people are required to get a background check and finger printing done, ALL school staff should be as well. There’s no point in being mandatory for some, and not others. Defeats the whole purpose of “security”.

    Which leads to my belief of “cash cow”. Or just a misplaced sense of over protectiveness.


    Have you seen this? Now parents can’t be trusted to pack THEIR OWN KIDS LUNCHES. Really.

  60. Good thing we’re going to homeschool!

  61. It never ceases to amaze me how many people support these measures… that is, until they get treated like a potential predator themselves.

  62. My province requires all teachers (and school board staff) to have a background check and fingerprinting once they are hired (which we pay for out of pocket). After that, you sign an offense declaration every 12 months, stating that you have not committed a crime. This past year, there have been two colleagues in my board who have been charged with indecent exposure to minors and luring minors via the internet. Can we say that background check safety works perfectly! 🙂

  63. We have to agree to background checks in the following situations at a public school in Australia…
    1. If you are volunteering to teach scripture (once a week and the teacher is NEVER to leave the classroom).
    2. If you are volunteering to help take the kids on an excursion (fair enough, you can be left with small groups of kids in an unfamiliar place for extended periods of time).
    3. If you are volunteering to help individual kids read (one on one with the student a few times a week).

    If you are going into to the school for some reason you may have to sign in (in case of emergency they need to know who to evacuate).
    During mass assemblies, performances, Easter hat parades, presentations, parties, sports days, etc they just assume everyone there is supposed to be there. But you have to let the office know if you are dropping your child’s forgotten lunch in their bag on a normal school day but you won’t need to sign anything.

  64. I honestly think the fingerprinting is a bit ridiculous… but I think the worst part is that they want the parents to pay for it.. it’s like an extra kick in the pants saying “we don’t really want you here” which is completely the opposite of the way it should be.. if you are a parent you have a legitimate reason to be in that school any time your child is there period. If the school district wants to enforce that type of rule they should be the one paying for it at least.

  65. Albany (CA)Unified School District
    There are three basic types of volunteers: Site Volunteer-Classroom, Field Trip Driver Volunteer-Field Trip Driver, Driver for sports teams Coach Volunteer-Assists sports coach
    All volunteers are required to: Submit a Volunteer Application Submit fingerprints for DOJ and FBI clearance Provide a clear TB test (within last 60 days) Driver Volunteer and Coach Volunteer have additional requirements
    Volunteer Approval Process
    Site Volunteer Requirements
    1. V olunteer Application 2. Clear TB (within last 60 days) 3. FBI and DOJ fingerprint clearance
    Driver Volunteer Requirements:
    1. V olunteer Application 2. Clear TB (within last 60 days) 3. FBI and DOJ fingerprint clearance 4. Copy of Driver’ s License 5. Individual Department of Motor Vehicle Driving Record 6. Insurance policy declaration page 7. Copy of current car registration 8. V olunteer Driver Information Sheet and Declaration
    Potential Volunteer contacts desired site and submits Volunteer Application
    Site approves application, attaches any required documentation (see below) and sends to Human Resources for approval
    Human Resources audits documentation and Volunteer name submitted to Board of Education for approval
    Volunteer approved and may begin to voluntee

  66. Wow! I’m feeling pretty lucky over here!! I had to do the fingerprinting/background check thing for a tutoring program developed by the state, but for all the other volunteering at my kids’ school, as long as you want to help, they’ll have you. We have parents, grandparents, retirees, siblings all working with the kids at various times all the time! The teacher will usually ask for help if she needs it, a few people will sign up, and that’s that! We have a great and active Parent Group to organize the extras (no fingerprinting or background checks required). Parents often come in to eat lunch with their kids and they come in for classroom parties (at least the parents of the younger ones) I never feel as if their schooling has become our families life. We help with homework, maybe a project here or there, and give of our time as we can. After reading some of these comments, I have a new appreciation for their school (though I am soooooo looking forward to summer vacation!:)

  67. @green skunk that is just silly. I teach 4th grade. I have on occasion called a parent about what their child is or is not eating at school – just to make sure they were aware.

    1. Young girl wasn’t eating, and I heard her talking about not eating to lose weight. She already was on the lean side of healthy. Mom said that older sis had an eating disorder and thanks for letting her know they would be talking to the family therapist. Child started eating normally.

    2. 3 – 4 kids on medication for various thing who just aren’t hungry at lunch, then are starving an hour later. I let them keep stuff in my frig and they eat their lunch while working in class.

    3. Several different kids over a the last 10 years bring a brown bag that is a coke, chips, and candy. That has been 50/50. Sometimes the parents know and don’t give a flip others were thankful that I let them know.

    I also had a vegetarian student a few years ago. I didn’t think twice about her lunches except that they looked delicious. Her parents called me, apparently a sub said something to her about her “unhealthy lunches”. They assured me they had talked to the girl’s doctor and were consulting a dietitian. I assured them that the sub was out of line and encouraged them to let the principal know what happened.

  68. I checked in my city and it turns out that at at least one preschool, volunteers who will be one-on-one with kids (ie biffy breaks, etc) get police checks, others don’t. The public Board of Education requires police checks for all volunteers, full stop. One of my colleagues actually manages the security checks for her preschool — that’s how she volunteers! Yes, she has had a security check herself and signed a privacy agreement.

    She tells me that at the preschool nobody feels judged or distrusted. Certain crimes on a police check get a pass (dunno the criteria, sorry); others preclude a parent from volunteering one-on-one but they can do other stuff. The biggest issue winds up being manpower because it takes weeks to get the checks completed.

    At the public school level it seems like overkill — even a parent who wants to come in to play guitar to a class full of kids supervised by their teacher needs the check. So opportunities are lost. That’s too bad.

    Possibly the headline about making parents feel angry and distrusted is hyperbole. Or maybe it’s a cultural thing.

  69. @ Frances – How exactly dies your friend KNOW that nobody at the preschool feels judged or distrusted? Did she question each and every parent? Would they tell her the truth? Are there some parents who don’t volunteer or does every parent of every child in the school volunteer? Could it be that some parents don’t volunteer because they don’t want to be judged? How many parents have been rejected – because I guarantee that those parents feel judged and distrusted?

    It sounds to me that your friend has chosen this specific area to volunteer in so believes that checks are important. As such, she believes that nobody feels judged or distrusted with no actual evidence of that whatsoever.

    My child’s pre-k class is in a private daycare – same daycare she has been attending since she was 1. There has never been a background check for parents, grand parents, stepparents, or any other person representing a child enrolled in the school (community volunteers with no connection to the kids are not present). Parents aren’t asked to volunteer often but they are encouraged to attend parties and field trips. There are also weeks where parents come in to talk to the class (career week, to bring in pets for pet week, etc.). And almost every child has a parent bring treats on his birthday. The school seems to trust that the parents are safe around their own children and the rest of the class especially since a teacher is always present too.

  70. I’m for the background checks of other adults around my children. The Youth Football league I’m working with requires them but doesn’t charge the parent, thats a cost that we eat. The parents complete a thorough application and provide their drivers licence. Some of these volunteer positions work very closely with kids sometimes on a one-on-one basis. I find nothing wrong with the measures but NOT as a burden to the family.

  71. As I work across a few different states, with a few different organizations, I have had numerous ‘Working with Children’ checks. And I wouldnt be volunteering for any of these roles (quite a bit of volunteer work) if I had to pay for it.
    I first started volunteering with one organization at 18. When I was earning $200 a week and my rent was $150. You can see why my budget wouldnt have extended to cover such ridiculous costs!

    Im fine filling in my one to three page form, which usually just requires name, DOB, address and signature. (got a bit cranky with one that required evidence of every address for the past five years – I was a farm worker following the work, so had had more than my fair share of addresses).

    What Im saying is unintrusive (have I murdered, raped or being charged with anything kiddie related), easy to fill out and FREE isnt an issue for me.

  72. Count me OUT! There is no way in hell I would ever agree to this.

  73. Melinda, whether you pay out of your pocket or not, someone has to pay for it. If it comes out of the football league’s money then they have less money for the stuff they need so you’ll pay more to join. And it might just be enough of an increase for a few families to change theri mind about joining.

    People, SOMEONE is paying for all these background checks whether you write the check or not. If you pay state taxes or registration fees, or donate money to your church, etc. you are paying for this. And for what? Nobody has yet linked to any statistics that tell me how many kids have been molested by volunteer parents.

  74. When enough people say enough is enough and refuse to participate this nonsense will stop. Innocent until proven guilt is an important part of our culture. So easy to let it slip with the thinking, “I have nothing to hide.”

  75. Another reason to homeschool

  76. @EricS – I was just reciting the law of the land in Arizona. Perhaps I miss-spoke. The law requires employees in Certified positions to have a fingerprint ID card.

    I’m not sure if the law requires EVERYONE (better choice of word than “anyone”), in any position – janitor, lunch lady, bus driver – who works at a school to be fingerprinted. It may or may not. I only know about the certified positions because it was a requirement when I was considering becoming a teacher.

    I wasn’t commenting on the reasonableness of the law – just stating the fact.

  77. I have a feeling that this above ruling (I’m in the district) will be overruled in many cases by sensible teachers. I have had multiple kids at our school and know lots of the teachers. Are they really going to refuse my help and make me show my fingerprint card or whatever the necessary documentation will be? I don’t even think our principal is necessarily on board either, though he can’t /won’t speak out against the superintendent.

    Unfortunately there are many parents at my kids’ school who will write the check because twenty bucks is nothing to them and they don’t care about fighting it. But to me it’s the point of the matter. It’s insulting and ridiculous. And there are many lower income schools within the district that will lose all their volunteers.

    I am not certain but I don’t think this was motivated by insurance. I think it’s a “safety first” overboard mentality, probably fueled by a handful of super paranoid and LOUD parents.

    I too would like to see documentation/stats of parent volunteers involved in misconduct of any kind on school grounds.

  78. Thisis already true for my child’s school. However, fingerprints aren’t required- just a basic form you sign and the school sends to the state. So far, the district pays for it.

  79. […] How to Make Parents Feel Angry & Distrusted « FreeRangeKids.   If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing […]

  80. So far, the district pays for it.

    Either by cutting services elsewhere (bigger classes? Reduced bus service? No more art and music? No nurse at the school?) or by raising taxes. IS it worth the cost?

  81. Frances, I am sure that the parents at the preschool do not feel threatened because they have more choices on where to send their kids and can decide if this preschool is for them or not, even if they are getting help from the government to pay for preschool.

    Public school is a little different. Yes, some parents may have the means to send their kid someplace else, but many parents do not have that choice.

  82. I had to be fingerprinted when I was volunteering in a school some years ago. I don’t think there was a background check involved. My understanding was that most people are only “on file” (fingerprinted) if they’ve committed a crime, and that this was a pre-emptive measure that, if I were to do something and leave evidence, I could be traced more easily.

  83. […] one lace doily, or show your kid how to use a pair of safety scissors, you are going to have to prove you’re not a pedophile. First Link: Dear Free-Range Kids: The school district where we live […]

  84. Looking at this list of names, it appears they are looking for pedos in the wrong area:

    Debra LaFave, Laura Obzera, Maria Guzman Hernandez, Jessica Wishnask, Jennifer Espinosa, Abbie Swogger, Mary Kay Letourneau, Jill Lewis, Nicole Long, Allenna Ward, Janelle Batkins, Loni Folks, Amanda Athey, Amy Northcutt, Joy Blackstock, Stephanie Ragusa, Nicole Barnhart, Pamela Smart.

    What do they all have in common? They were all school employees; except for one which was a nurse, all were TEACHERS.

  85. In our state, volunteers are required to have the background check. Once it’s complete and as long as you volunteer at least once a year, you do not need to renew it. All teachers (including student teachers) must have the background checks complete before they are allowed in a classroom.
    I believe our school did so due to a parent who was abusing his own children. This allowed the school to prevent the abusive parent from volunteering at school events, but didn’t prevent the parent from simply attending the event.
    I don’t like that some will be prevented from volunteering because of the cost of the background checks. My husband (a public school teacher) has already seen volunteerism drop because of the policy.

  86. Look people, some kind of background check is required for ANYONE who works in service of children, be it teachers,janitors, pediatric doctors,etc…. The finger printing might be going a little far, but a simple check to see if someone has an assault record against a child is important.
    I am an abuse survivor and I fully appreciate the wisdom shown in this matter.

  87. Chicago mom, I’m sorry for your abuse.

    However, I have to ask – would a background check have prevented it? And were you abused by a janitor, teacher, pediatrician, or volunteer at your school?

  88. Well, don’t answer the last, actually. The first is what matters. WOULD a background check have caught this person?

    As far as janitors and pediatricians go, given that there’s no reason for kids to ever be alone with these folks, I see no need to check them. As far as volunteers go, given that they’re rarely in a position to be alone with kids and their time tends to be short – same deal. If they’re molesters, it’s probably their own children who are getting it. There’s no background check for your parents.

  89. All volunteers and anyone who works in the schools here is required to get a criminal background check but I haven’t heard of fingerprinting here yet. One school in a nearby city had missed doing a check on an employee and it turned out he had a long record; of course it wasn’t found out until after someone was molested. As for janitors not needing to be checked, it is not unusual for a teacher to tell a kid “go see Mr/Mrs X and ask for paper towels, turn the heat down, etc”

  90. I am just outraged by the fact that my twin sister has to fill out a form and pay $51 to attend a field trip with her child’s classroom.
    I don’t even have children but I am enraged by the treatment of parents
    There seems to be some agenda for the powers that be to do their utmost to separate the bonds of children and their parents. This police state is now upon us and it will only be a matter of time for the full “push back” when enough of society says “Enough”! We are subjected to a virtual strip search at airports and cameras are everywhere watching our every movement. We are no longer citizens but we, the people, have become the terrorists. This is an abusive invasion of privacy and destroying our 4th Amendment rights.
    I would suggest that parents get together and fight back using legal means.
    What is next? A DNA sample?

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