Mom With Felony No Longer Allowed to Volunteer at Son’s School

A local PTA volunteer in Farmington, New Hampshire has been told by the school board she is no longer allowed to volunteer within the school district after a background check revealed a felony on her record. Thirty-two-year-old Jessica Cowan had been the local PTA volunteer, and had spent time volunteering at her 7-year-old son’s elementary school. When she was 21, Cowan was charged and convicted of assault and battery after an incident with her ex-husband. The felony became an issue after Cowan applied for a substitute teacher position with the school district, and the resulted in her being banned as a volunteer.

During a school board meeting, Cowan contended that she had been volunteering since September 2010, at which time a background check was also ran. She said State Police told her the same charges and history were revealed at that time. School board member Kathy King apologized, and acknowledged the fact that Cowan was allowed to volunteer at the time when her criminal record was first revealed was “a flaw in the system.” She also said the Policy Committee at the school is revaluating all of the school’s policies. New Hampshire state law allows for a governing school body to adopt a policy stating anyone who has been convicted of a felony shall not be hired, either for a school position or a volunteer.

Interim Superintendent Bob Lister has said the mark on Cowan’s record is a “black and white” situation. Lister informed the board he is seeking out a legal opinion on this matter, and said the issue is making sure students are kept safe. “My job is to protect kids,” Lister said. “I explained the way she could have that expunged by going to see an attorney. There are ways to do that. (She) chose not to do that but it's very black and white as far as I'm concerned as the superintendent. It doesn't matter what (the charge) is.” However, Cowan contends that the time to expunge her record has passed, since the charge is more than 10 years old. Janet Kalar, member of the Policy Committee said that they will be reviewing the policy for hiring workers with felonies on their records, which although Lister has said also applies to volunteers, is not explicitly stated.

As indicated in the recent post Public School System in Massachusetts Expanding Background Checks for New Hires, schools are cracking down on background checks. Perhaps you should consider implementing these types of policies for your business and recheck employees and volunteers periodically. Let a reputable company like take care of the work for you. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide, they provide several options for instant results. Their Ongoing Criminal Monitoring tool allows you to automatically run a continuous background check against a name and date of birth, and they will notify you via email of any new information that may appear on the record. They will run the name for one year and remind you when it is time to renew the monitoring, and you can remove the name from being monitored at any time. Or try their US Offender OneSEARCH, which includes offender information from 49 states (plus Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico) with photos. Give a try for yourself today.


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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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