Volunteer Background Check Fees

Good morning Goochland!

This post is designed to offer some clarity to an issue that has been causing some turbulence among our community members. Let me get right to the heart of the matter and deliver the punchline first, then we’ll unpack some of the details that may be of interest to you.

We will NOT ask our volunteers to pay for their own background checks. I realize this is in conflict with what you’ve recently heard, but this is the final word. I credit our five principals entirely with finding creative ways to fund these background checks, which cost $44 regardless of the school in which you volunteer.

Upon learning that there was no funding available for these checks, our principals appropriately turned immediately to the issue of your children’s safety. They began relaying the unfortunate news about our inability to support the fees internally. Again, I support them completely – their instinct, despite how it would be received, was to ensure our students’ safety.

But immediately thereafter, they adamantly responded to what we all felt: that it was unconscionable to visit the fee upon the volunteers, themselves. We pulled together under the direction of the School Board, and found a way to make this right.

Demetra Harris, our specialist who administers personnel service and benefit programs, is responsible for scheduling, completing and processing the background checks, which have two parts:

  1. FBI Fingerprint Screening ($37), which checks for criminal history, prior arrests, etc.
  2. Social Services Clearance ($7), which checks specifically for any founded or pending cases of abuse or neglect of children assigned to the individual’s care

Mrs. Harris processes the checks during the work day, but is offering an option to accommodate those whose work schedule won’t allow them to come in during the day for the screening. If you’ve completed the Volunteer Application and are in need of the background check, please contact Mrs. Harris at (804)556-5603 and she will schedule a time for you accordingly.

What happens with the information we receive? If there are any indications of “flags” on the screening results, that information comes in a sealed envelop to Mrs. Harris. She delivers that documentation to me personally and I contact the individual to let them know we have received that information and, if necessary, ask them to engage in a discussion with me about the incident until we can reach resolution about the individual’s work in our schools with your children.

It is kept in the strictest confidence and Mrs. Harris and I are the only two employees with access to the information.

So where’d we find the money? From a tiny portion of a residual grant fund from a past year, we will be able to capture about $3,000 in revenue this year that was unexpected. This will give us just enough flexibility to process the background check fees on behalf of our volunteers.

Again, I applaud our principals for their determination to help us work through this dilemma, maintaining the School Board and division’s commitment to keeping every child safe at school while extending this courtesy to our generous community members who sacrifice their time and talents for the benefit of our children.

This collaborative effort between our School Board and Leadership has enabled us to appropriately welcome our selfless volunteers with respect and gratitude. We are also able to say to you, our parents, with absolute certainty that we have expended every effort to ensure that your children will not be exposed to any individual who poses a threat to their safety at school.

 

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8 Responses to Volunteer Background Check Fees

  1. Cynthia says:

    Will this have to be done every year that a parent has a child in school or can the check be carried from one year to the next?

    • pgretz says:

      Excellent question – it can be carried year to year unless there’s a significant separation. Our requirement with employees is 90 days and we try to adhere to that, realizing a little flexibility will be prudent.

  2. Beth Hardy says:

    THANK YOU to Dr. Gretz and the Leadership Team for moving so quickly to resolve this issue! Volunteers are a critical resource for our schools and we don’t want any barriers to their involvement. Funding background checks was clearly something that fell through the cracks in last year’s budget cycle and the current School Board fully supports budgeting for this expense. Again, thanks to everyone for collaborating on this issue and finding a swift solution.

  3. Debbie McKinney says:

    Thank you for your work with the School Board and the Principals to resolve this issue and keep parents and other volunteers involved in the schools.

  4. Julia Davis says:

    I completed the full background check with fingerprints etc. when my son started Kindergarten in the 2009-2010 school year. I understand about the ability to carry over year to year but wasn’t sure how many times that is allowed. I thought I remembered that the checks were good for three years but wanted to be sure before I schedule with Mrs. Harris. I appreciate everything the principals and school officials are doing to cover the costs of these safety measures and applaud their ingenuity. I, for one, am more than happy to cover the cost for myself. The safety of our children is worth any price. Thank you!

    • pgretz says:

      Thank you, Ms. Davis. There’s no cap on how many years one can volunteer having completed the security clearance, as long as there hasn’t been a significant period of time in which you have not been involved in the schools. We use 90 days as a guideline, with a little flexibility.

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  6. Lynn Nuckols says:

    I wanted to add that I too have no problem with paying my own background check as it is all about the safety of our children. Also, one concern I would share is that I feel routine background checks should be more often than just at the start of employment or volunteering. Anything can change in ones life and if updates are not run periodically, we run the risk of missing something that could be vital. Cost should never be an issue when faced with our childrens safety. Same goes for seat belts on the school buses, but that is a another story.. :)