Schools might require more background checks for volunteersThe District 833 School Board is considering changing the district criminal background check policy to include some volunteers.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
The District 833 School Board is considering changing the district criminal background check policy to include some volunteers.
Checks would include volunteers who are not under visible supervision by staff members, those who accompany field trips, those who volunteer more than five times in the same activity or school building and “unique” situations where a criminal background check is deemed necessary, according to Mark Porter, director of human resources and legal services, at a School Board workshop Feb. 7.
Volunteers under direct supervision of a paid staff member on five or fewer occasions will not need background checks, according to the proposed policy change.
The proposal complies with state law, Porter said in his report to the board. It also goes beyond minimum requirements to make sure there is a safe environment for students.
Board members, who endorse background checks for volunteers, are undecided on who should pay for them.
Porter is proposing that the $15 cost of the background check be paid by volunteers or non-school organizations such as a business that wanted to encourage volunteerism.
State law allows the district to assess the cost of obtaining information from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to potential employees. The money is deducted from the employee’s first paycheck, Porter said.
“It’s rather offensive to ask volunteers to pay for it,” said Board Member Marsha Adou. Board Member Denise Kapler agreed.
Board Member Leslee Boyd said she knows of districts that require annual background checks on volunteers.
The cost could be paid for at the building level in building budgets or by working with parent organizations, according to Superintendent Tom Nelson.
Kapler had several structural questions about the new policy. Board Chair Ron Kath volunteered to meet with Kapler and Porter. After there is resolution, it will come back to the school board.
Adou also asked if the district conducts random tests for drug and alcohol use.
If there is “reasonable suspicion,” a test can be conducted with the written consent of the employee. The test would only be for behavior while at work.
Random tests for drug and alcohol use are done for bus drivers for safety reasons, he said.
“What about shop teachers?” Adou said.
“It could be done but I don’t know anyone who’s doing that,” Porter said.
Testing could be done but it would have to be for everyone, Porter said. It would add “considerable” cost.
Kath asked Porter to find out what the cost is. “We need to eliminate those kind of people,” he said. Adou agreed.
“For what time period?” Porter said, adding short-term drug and alcohol use can be detected in urine samples. To determine drug use at some time in the past, hair follicles are tested.
There are criminal background check policies for employees and the one proposed for a certain group of volunteers but there’s been no discussion about student volunteers or student workers, Porter said.
Background checks are not done after the initial check before the employee is hired, he said. It would require employee consent. “You can’t do perpetual consents,” he said.