- Verified Volunteers, a company that provides volunteer screening and background check services to nonprofits and service organizations, has outlined a list of best practices for schools as more make background checks a prerequisite for volunteer work.
- First, the company recommends schools use the most comprehensive sex offender search, the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, and it recommends they conduct multiple searches for criminal record checks since no single database includes everything, with searches for current and former addresses and using aliases and maiden names.
- Verified Volunteers says not to rely exclusively on fingerprinting because it won’t return all records, to consider screening volunteers who work in finance or with technology, in addition to those who work with students, and to re-screen volunteers regularly.
Schools have to be careful about the people they let inside their buildings, and sometimes that desire to protect students needs to be balanced against a respect for the school community. Requiring background checks of volunteers will necessarily alienate parents who are undocumented or those who have criminal records, but for nonviolent crimes or incidents from many years prior that wouldn’t necessarily make them a danger to current students. Administrators must use judgment to consider extenuating circumstances while protecting the children in their care.
The point about screening volunteers beyond those who work with students, however, is also a good one. Schools now collect a wealth of data that can be lucrative if stolen, and knowing whether a willing volunteer has been charged with white collar crime before offering to work in the office is important.