The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)—California’s largest public school district and the second largest public school district in the United States—is looking for a way to streamline the volunteer process. Right now, the school district requires every volunteer—parent or otherwise—to undergo fingerprinting and criminal background checks before they can work with students. Prospective volunteers are expected to pay $56 to cover the cost of their own background checks.
Austin Beutner, the current superintendent of the LAUSD, has submitted a proposal that would waive the volunteer fee, among other changes to the volunteer process. Per a report from NBC Los Angeles, Beutner believes that “costly fees and needless bureaucracy” could be deterring family members and community members from volunteering with the school district. He believes simplifying the process—and eliminating the expense of volunteering—would only benefit students and enhance the school district’s educational opportunities.
In addition to waiving the fee, Beutner’s proposal would streamline the act of signing up to volunteer. There are currently seven locations throughout the district where family and community members can sign up to volunteer. Beutner’s proposal would nearly double that number to 13 sign-up locations. The school district would absorb the cost of background checks and fingerprinting for each volunteer.
Beutner seems to have the support of the rest of the LAUSD leadership team. The NBC Los Angeles report included a quote from Nick Melvoin, the vice president of the LAUSD school board. Melvoin referred to Beutner’s proposal as a “first step” in “cutting red tape and promoting partnerships” within the LAUSD school community.
At backgroundchecks.com, we are adamant about the importance of volunteer background checks in all organizations that utilize volunteers—not just schools. Volunteers can be the face of an organization just as much as any employee. Especially in a school setting, volunteers are also working closely with students—sometimes even in unsupervised capacities. Failing to vet school volunteers thoroughly is to put students at risk. Read our whitepaper about volunteer background checks to learn more about why they are so important.
The LAUSD is not the first school district to worry that running background checks on volunteers—and expecting volunteers to shoulder the cost—might actually deter family and community members from getting involved at school. Waiving costs and lowering other barriers are powerful strategies that volunteer organizations can use to spur more engagement and retain existing volunteers.
If your organization is in the process of putting together a volunteer background check policy, backgroundchecks.com can help. Click here for a guide on the types of background checks that should be included in a volunteer screening policy.