South Carolina School District Finds Success with New Volunteer Screening Process

By Michael Klazema on 12/29/2014

For a long time, schools have had a dilemma of sorts with screening their volunteers. It goes without saying that school systems don't want to run the same checks on, say, parent chaperones for a field trip as they would on a full-time teacher. Such a process would make it more difficult for parents to get involved at school, and would cost districts a lot of extra money in taxpayer dollars. However, schools still want to make sure that kids remain protected from volunteers who might not be the most trustworthy or low-risk people in the world.

However, according to a recent report from The State, a publication that focuses on South Carolina news, a school district in Rock Hill, SC, may have stumbled upon the perfect volunteer background check solution. The Rock Hill School District implemented a new volunteer screening process in the spring of this year, and based on comments from the district's community services coordinator, it's been smooth sailing so far. The woman in charge of the coordinator position made a special point of noting just how much more information the district learns about volunteers under the new system.

Furthermore, the system is convenient. When parents or other individuals offer to volunteer with the district, their names are sent right along to the background check agency that the district uses. The agency then uses those names to look at criminal records and court databases from every state in the country. The system also scans sex offender registries and terrorist watch lists. All of the information collected from these sources is then boiled down into a single background check report, which is returned to district officials. Those officials then use the reports to decide which volunteers are and are not fit to work with children.

Moreover, the system also has a confidential component, which keeps school officials and teachers from learning information that may change their view of parents and other community members. That's because officials at the individual schools never see the background checks. Instead, only district administrators look at the background check reports, and they are the ones making decisions about whether to approve or deny a volunteer.

Like with other volunteer screening systems, people will only be denied volunteer privileges for serious offenses. For instance, if a would-be volunteer has a criminal conviction for a violent crime, shows up on the sex offender registry, or has committed a serious drug offense, that person wouldn't be allowed to volunteer. According to the report from The State, several volunteers are rejected each month. School volunteer screening processes have become more in-depth and advanced over the past few years as concerns over school safety have hit a fever pitch. The system employed by

Rock Hill School District might be close to the model that many schools start using in the coming months and years. From convenience (the names of volunteers being automatically added to the background check list) to quality (the in-depth, nationwide nature of the checks), the system leaves no stone unturned in making sure kids are kept safe.


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