Interim Superintendent Brings Volunteer Background Checks to Oregon School District

By Michael Klazema on 10/7/2014

The Reedsport School District in Reedsport, Oregon never required volunteer background checks in the past. However, that all changed when the district appointed an interim superintendent with a top priority for protecting children. The superintendent, despite the potentially temporary status of his interim post, has launched a new policy with the Reedsport district that requires all volunteers to fill out a form and consent to a background check. The checks are then outsourced to a private company, which compiles background reports on each prospective volunteer and then returns the reports to the district.

According to the interim superintendent, the background check reports are then reviewed by the district, with eyes peeled for any red flags that would posit a volunteer as someone who should not be "in charge of kids." Finally, the superintendent personally calls each volunteer flagged by the system and explains why they are being denied a chance to volunteer with the district.

The policy itself is fairly standard, and becoming more so, as volunteer checks continue to spread throughout United States school districts. However, the way that the policy came to the Reedsport School District is rather unusual. In most cases, volunteer background checks at schools are implemented in the wake of an incident within the district, or because state laws mandate the change.

Not so at Reedsport. Instead, the move toward volunteer background checks was brought about entirely by the interim superintendent, who says that such checks are just something he has always done in the other school districts with which he has worked. The superintendent also said that volunteer background checks are just another layer of security for children that "helps [him] sleep at night."

It's not difficult to see why the interim superintendent is so adamant about doing background checks on volunteers. At his previous school district, his background check policies helped flag individuals with convictions for domestic assault, drunk driving, and drug possession, just to name a few. He even flagged several pedophiles who were off probation, but still featured on sex offender registries. Without volunteer background checks, all of these individuals likely would have been allowed to work closely with children.

The interim superintendent isn't sure whether people forget about their criminal offenses (not likely, but apparently a common claim) or that they have a malicious intent to use volunteering to get close to children. Either way, he says that individuals flagged with serious criminal offenses are never allowed to volunteer with children under his watch, a stance he has brought with him to Reedsport School District.


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