Michigan Township Will Now Require Background Checks for Parks and Recreation Volunteers

By Michael Klazema on 12/1/2015

It's becoming a more and more familiar story: from schools to camps, and beyond, companies and organizations are requiring background checks for employees, contractors, or volunteers whose duties involve working with children. The latest entity to approve such a requirement is the Parks and Recreation division of Davison Township, Michigan.

At a recent meeting of the Davison Township Board of Trustees, the Parks and Recreation Department proposed that criminal background checks be a requirement for all volunteers and staff members at local parks and facilities. The board approved the measure, which means that anyone working with children at a Parks and Rec facility in Davison Township will be required, going forward, to complete a background check first. Reportedly, the proposal for the new background checks was inspired by the fact that other nearby townships already have background checks in place for Parks and Recreation personnel.

The general feeling in the Board of Trustees meeting was that, if someone is going to be working with children, they should be subject to a thorough background screening. According to a report from the Davison Index, a local newspaper, and publication, one trustee went as far as to say that "if you haven't gotten a felony expunged from your record after so many years, it's because you have multiple convictions." The trustee went on to say that anyone with a criminal background should not be working with children in either a professional or volunteer capacity.

The trustee isn't wrong that an expungement is a good option for ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society and want to be able to claim no criminal record on job applications. However, judges will usually only approve expungement for certain offenses, and usually only after a certain period has elapsed.

Of course, there is an argument to be made that anyone whose crimes cannot be expunged should be kept away from positions that would put that person in close contact with children. Typically, states won't expunge violent or sexually-related crimes, as well as crimes involving children. To imply that anyone with any sort of criminal record should either expunge it or not work with kids, though, is also arguably reductive in a discriminatory fashion. More minor crimes like petty theft, one-time drug possession charges, or other misdemeanors don't necessarily mean an individual should be barred from working any job—even one that involves working with children.

Davison Township is certainly right to run background checks on Parks and Rec staff and volunteers who will be working with children. It's just too bad that the discussion about the new policy seems to imply a blanket denial of those jobs to anyone with a criminal history, rather than due diligence screening and case-by-case consideration.


Industry News

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 20 Employers who use E-Verify must follow the proper steps and procedures when they receive a “tentative non-confirmation notice” from either the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security. Failure to follow the proper procedures can cost employers both time and money. 
  • March 20

    Four Department of Commerce employees are out after their background checks resulted in security clearance denials. All four had worked high-ranking positions for months despite incomplete background checks.

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants. 
  • March 01 In an age of "industry disruptors" turning established business models on their heads, companies such as Uber and Lyft rely on a unique workforce of individuals outside the traditional employer-employee context. Uber calls them "partners" while other businesses refer to them as "independent contractors," the official classification these individuals use for tax purposes. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed they had warned a business, Postmates, for misclassifying their staff as independent contractors. In the NLRB's determination, these individuals were employees.