According to reports, visitor and volunteer background checks are becoming common at school districts across the United States. Many of these policies require parents to go through background checks if they wish to chaperone class field trips or volunteer in the classroom. Sometimes, all visitors are required to go through “flash" background checks at a school's front office before proceeding to other parts of the school building. In some cases, parents are only required to go through background checks if they will be working with kids on an unsupervised basis.
According to local sources, a school district in Alabama wants to take parent background checks one step further. Based on a report from the Austin-American Statesman, Pelham City Schools wants background checks for any parents who wants to sit down and have lunch with their kids.
The Statesman report didn't specify which types of background checks parents would have to face. The report did note that the checks cost $15 each—an expense that the parents, not the school district, must cover. The district also requires background checks for other types of parental involvement, including chaperoning on field trips. In theory, when a parent pays for a background check for a field trip, the check would also allow him or her to eat lunch at school, administrators have indicated.
There has been some pushback from parents in the district about the background check policy, which is new this fall. Some parents were concerned about the price of the checks and worried that the expense might discourage parents from getting involved at school.
The superintendent of the Pelham City School District—which is located in Pelham City, Alabama and consists of three different schools—appeared undaunted by pushback for the policy. He said the school wanted to be consistent about screening volunteers and visitors and making sure that every single person in the school building is safe and trustworthy. The district is concerned first and foremost about the safety and wellbeing of students, he said.
The superintendent noted that Pelham City School District sees a lot of parental involvement. Running background checks on everyone, instead of having different rules for different types of parent volunteers, is simply an easier way of doing things in his view.