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Volunteering at School? First, Pay for Your Background Check

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As a community member or a parent, how much would you pay to volunteer at a local school? $10? $18? $40?

This question of cost is emerging where would-be school volunteers are required to pay for a criminal background check to be cleared to work with children in school, or on field trips outside of school.

In Kentucky, the state has been picking up the tab for background checks through the Administrative Office of the Courts. But with cuts to the judiciary budget, it's a $10-per-person cost the courts are passing along to the schools as of July 1, and the schools are expected to require volunteer applicants to pay.

A recent Courier-Journal story about this issue reported that 217,000 criminal records reports were conducted on behalf of Kentucky Schools last year.

Understandably, school officials and parents expressed concern about how this fee would impact volunteerism and parent engagement—especially in low-income households.

As school officials sort out this cost, some make distinctions between parents who are supervised by school personnel—while volunteering in a classroom with a teacher present, for instance—or those who will spend unsupervised moments with children.

Checking schools' policies on the web, Education Week discovered these charges at different schools:

• In Albuquerque, N.M., an applicant is on the hook for $18, payable by cashier's check, money order or credit card (no personal checks or cash).

• In Hilliard City Schools, Ohio, the charge is $9 if an applicant has been a state resident for the past five years; $18 if an applicant has lived outside of Ohio within the past five years, and volunteer badges must be renewed every five years.

• In Tennessee's Williamson County Schools, the cost is $40 for Tier 3 volunteers, those who have unsupervised contact with students (such as one-on-one tutors or overnight field trip chaperones).

• The Tupelo Public School District, in Mississippi, charges $35 to volunteers who are in similarly unsupervised time with students.

Let us know if you expect—or have experienced—any impact that this issue of paying for a background check has on a school's volunteers.

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