Over the past few years, fear over sex offenders and school shootings has driven educational institutions around the country to tighten their background check policies for teachers, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and all other workers given close access to children and teenagers. However, the school board for the Hernando County School District – a district located in Brooksville, Florida – is actually currently considering a relaxation of its background check policies. The district’s screening policies for volunteers are considerably stricter than the policies required by state legislation, and most board members seem interested in bringing Hernando more closely in line with the rest of Florida’s schools.
State law already calls for fairly in-depth policies regarding volunteers and contractors. Throughout the state, convictions for murder, terrorism, kidnapping, indecent exposure, sexual misconduct, child abuse or neglect, and incest would all essentially disqualify a person from volunteer consideration. Criminals convicted of any of the above offenses, as well as all registered sex offenders, are entirely prohibited from even being on a school grounds while children or teenagers are on campus.
In addition to those more serious offenses, the Hernando County School Board bars volunteers with nonviolent felony or misdemeanor charges on their record. In other words, those with drug or alcohol offenses – including drunk driving convictions – would not realistically be able to volunteer or work for the Hernando County School District in any capacity.
Questions about Hernando’s volunteer policy arose this past summer, when a longtime district coach and volunteer was revealed as a convicted felon with grand theft and forgery charges on his record. The Hernando County School District requires routine background checks of its employees and volunteers every three years.
Despite his crime, the coach, a man named Clarence Clark, is someone that that many parents, students, and school board officials in and around the Brooksville area have come to respect greatly over the years. Following a suggestion that Clark be removed from his volunteer post, the coach – as well as many of the students he has mentored – spoke publicly to urge the Hernando County School Board to reconsider their volunteer policies and allow consideration for nonviolent criminals who have made an effort to turn over a new leaf. Should the school board opt to change its tune on volunteer background check policies, then those with non-violent misdemeanor and felony charges would be allowed to be consider for volunteer and contractor posts.