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Parent Volunteer Background Checks Coming to Nevada

By Michael Klazema on 8/14/2017
Parent volunteers in Nevada will soon be required to undergo criminal background checks.

According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a law in Nevada has made it a requirement for most parent volunteers at public schools to pass background checks before working with children. The Review-Journal report notes that the legislative policy is designed “to keep children safe from sexual predators.” The requirement will apply to parents who volunteer regularly or have “unsupervised” contact with children.

The new law went into effect on Thursday, August 10th, meaning that it will apply to most parent volunteer engagements throughout the 2017/2018 school year, coverage notes.

Some parents have reported concern that the bill will have unintended consequences. In Clark County, the district will ask parents to cover the cost of their own volunteer background checks, reports indicate. Each background check includes fingerprinting and costs $60.

The Review-Journal interviewed multiple Clark County parents and teachers about the new policy. Unanimously, the paper’s sources were critical not of the law itself but of the Clark County School District’s decision to put the cost on the shoulders of parents. As passed, coverage notes, the state law leaves room for individual school districts to decide how they will handle payment coverage. As the biggest school district in the state with 380 different schools and more than 324,000 students, Clark County could set an example that other districts in the state decide to follow, reports note.

The concern among parents and teachers is that, by asking parents to pay for their own checks, the school district could make volunteering a cost prohibitive activity for some families. One teacher told the Review-Journal that he was worried the policy might jeopardize certain extracurricular activities that are parent-led. The state law gives districts the freedom to interpret which parent volunteers have “regular or unsupervised contact” with students (and therefore need background checks) and which do not. Since extracurricular activities are less likely to see teacher supervision than classroom volunteering opportunities, parents warn, those slots might prove more difficult to fill.

Clark County School District has been in the news several times over the past year for stories about teacher misconduct. The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a series called “Broken Trust” aimed at exposing the district’s failure to protect students. The series showed that the district had sometimes engaged in “passing the trash”—letting accused teachers escape their contracts and resign quietly—and that employee background check and training standards weren’t always high.

According to its supporters, the new state law will aim to raise standards across the board. In addition to new background check requirements for parent volunteers, coverage notes, the law outlines appropriate social media etiquette for teachers. When teachers are allowed to communicate with students via social networking platforms—and how they should go about it—are details laid forth in the law.

Sources: https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/education/clark-county-schools-fear-60-background-checks-may-dissuade-volunteers/

http://www.ktnv.com/news/new-law-requires-parent-volunteers-to-get-background-checks

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