Kentucky School District Shifts Volunteer Background Check Policy

By Michael Klazema on 7/17/2018

Should school volunteers pay for their own background checks? Or should a school district cover the costs to encourage more engagement and participation in parents and community members?

These questions have stymied school districts across the country for years. The latest evidence of this push and pull comes from Hardin County Schools, a school district in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Per a report from local newspaper The News-Enterprise, the school district recently decided to change its volunteer background check policy so volunteers will cover the costs of their own background checks.

Hardin County Schools has run volunteer background checks in the past but has always paid for the checks out of the district budget. A spokesman for the district says the cost of those checks has been hitting the schools hard in recent years. During the most recent school year, Hardin County Schools reportedly spent more than $15,000 on volunteer background checks. The district spokesperson said the district appreciates its volunteers but “had to make some fiscal decisions” for the good of the schools and the students. One of those decisions was cutting out the expense of volunteer background checks.

Going forward, new volunteers for Hardin County Schools will have to pay for their own background checks. Often, the worry among volunteer organizations is asking individuals to pay for background checks will serve as a deterrent to potential volunteers. The background checks for Hardin County Schools are $10 per volunteer. The district doesn’t expect the cost to negatively affect volunteer numbers in the school district.

Not everyone will have to go through background checks. Returning volunteers only need to submit to a new background check every seven years, which means anyone who has passed a background check since 2011 is exempt from the $10 charge—for now. Volunteers who will not be supervising, chaperoning, or otherwise working directly with children are not required to submit to background checks at all. An example of this volunteer would be someone working the box office or concession stand for a sporting or performing arts event.

Volunteers tend to pose a background check dilemma. Many organizations that rely on volunteers—including schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations—don’t necessarily have the funds to pay for volunteer background checks out-of-pocket. On the other hand, these organizations don’t want to scare away potential volunteers.

Skipping the volunteer background check altogether is not a viable option, given that volunteers and their actions can have a lot of the same effects on an organization as employees. Read’s white paper on volunteer background checks to learn more about the importance of these screenings and how they can be executed in a way that is agreeable to all parties.

At, we offer SelectCHECK, an easy and fast way for volunteer organizations to set up effective criminal screening processes for their volunteers.



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