School Board plans to review the district’s policy requiring volunteers to have criminal background clearances.
Board members said the current policy requires that all individual volunteers first submit FBI clearances before working with district children, particularly because of the potential for someone to be alone with a child. The belief is that Quaker Valley can’t be too careful when it comes to safeguarding students in the district’s care.
School Director Robert Riker said the goal is to figure out a procedure that addresses the concerns and mitigates the security risks.
Pennsylvania's public school districts must obtain state and federal criminal and child abuse clearances for all new employees, but each district handles volunteers differently.
Quaker Valley didn’t always require volunteer clearances, and the clearance requirement has caused fewer to volunteer. Some parents don’t volunteer often enough and haven’t bothered getting clearances. Some have complied with the requirement, while others have outright refused.
“They don’t feel it applies to them,” said Martha Smith, district spokeswoman.
If a visitor enters an elementary school for a classroom Valentine’s Day party, for instance, the visitor is required to register for a “visitor’s badge” but doesn’t need clearances. Visitors, however, aren’t permitted to be alone with children and must wear separate badges from those with clearances. In events such as band or chorus concerts, no badges are required.
The problem is the policy isn’t being applied across the district.
Smith said there have been instances where people who have been volunteers for nearly 20 years have refused to comply. One organization leader without clearances became upset after being refused entrance and stormed out, she said.
In some cases, new parent volunteers have raised questions because they aren’t familiar with long-time volunteers who haven’t received the clearances.
“You’ve got people who are complying who are new looking at people who have been volunteering who are not complying,” Smith said.
School Director David Pusateri said the policy isn’t meant to dissuade community members from volunteering, but it’s important for someone volunteering regularly to have the appropriate clearances.
“I think in this day and age, there is a no-tolerance policy. We will be held responsible if there’s a problem,” Pusateri said.
Smith said a scanning system has also been looked at as a way to screen anyone entering a school building using a driver’s license.
School Director Gianni Floro, who serves on the policy committee, said the board plans to continue discussing the volunteer policy in the next month and will review policies in other districts to see how volunteers are handled. Another portion of the policy pertaining to parents as volunteer coaches is also under review.