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N.C. District Seeks Volunteer Path for Undocumented Parents

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School district officials in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., are struggling to amend their current school volunteer policy to allow undocumented parents to be involved in their children's schools. 

According to the Charlotte Observer, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district's current policy requires all school volunteers to undergo a criminal background check by providing their Social Security number and driver's license. Undocumented immigrants, people who do not reside legally in the U.S., wouldn't have that identification, which would bar them from volunteering in schools.

LaTarzja Henry, assistant superintendent for family engagement for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, told the Charlotte Observer that the district is seeking to clarify its policies, especially the differences between volunteers and visitors. The story explains that school volunteers engage in activities with other students, while visitors are simply observers—often interacting solely with their own children—and therefore don't require criminal background checks.

One alternative under consideration by the district, according to the story, is fingerprinting parents and accepting valid passports. But Charlotte-Mecklenburg officials have called the fingerprinting process cost-prohibitive.

Still, immigrant advocates told the Charlotte Observer that the fingerprinting cost would be worthwhile if more parents are allowed to help schools by serving as tutors or chaperones on field trips.

In the story, Hector Vaca, an advocate for immigrants who is working with the district to change the volunteer policy said criminal background checks should be mandatory but added: "Excluding [undocumented immigrant parents] is unfair to their children, and it's discriminatory."

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