Clearances for Parent Volunteers

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Clearances for Parent Volunteers

Post  Bumblebee on Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:48 am

A controversy may be developing about district policy regrading the necessity for clearances for parents who volunteer occasionally in the schools.

The district website states:

Volunteering in Our Schools

While we encourage parent participation in our schools, please be aware to volunteer for the Penn-Trafford School District you must have current Act 34, 151 and 114 clearances. These clearances may take as long as 6-8 weeks to process, so you are encouraged to apply for the clearances as soon as you decide to apply for a position or wish to volunteer within the district.

Regular Volunteer - A person "working" with students assumes a role that is conducted on a regular basis. In this role, the principal and the person "working" in this role, knows ahead of time that part of that person's role in the school will be expected to take place without being under the direction or presence of a cleared staff member. The principal and person working in the role know that the person in this role have committed to an activity on a regular basis. Example: PCA, Accelerated Reader Volunteer, PTO Officer, Teacher, Weekly Classroom Volunteer. Clearances are required of people in this role.

Occasional Volunteer - People who would NOT be considered being part of a "working" role would assume a one time or occasional position. In this role, the principal and the cleared staff member who the person works under put measures in place ahead of time to make sure that the person in this role is always with a cleared staff member. Example: Occasional Field Day Volunteer, Occasional classroom party helper, someone who comes in one time as a guest speaker to speak to a group of students in a classroom (in all of these cases, a cleared staff member is told ahead of time that they must be present).

Please note: overnight trips and Deer Valley require ANNUAL clearances
At the Nov 9 School Board Meeting, during the recognition of visitors, a family that isquestioning the necessity for clearances all spoke. The student first, then the mom and dad. They conveyed that they wanted the policy on the district’s website to stand so that the mom could volunteer for the Homeroom Holiday Parties without the need for clearances. The student said that the reason the mom did not want to get the clearances was that it was a financial hardship. (The mom has said to PTO officers and other parents on multiple occasions that it is not an issue of finances but the principal of the matter, that she has been a volunteer in previous years without having to have clearances and feels that she should be able to volunteer now without the necessity for clearances.) Then Dr. Kolonay was given an opportunity to enlighten the Board with the issue. She said that they were in the process of determining how many “Occasional” was and felt that 3 times a year would be appropriate. Then several other parents including PTO officers from various schools spoke about the necessity for clearances, discussing the areas of the need because of the security of the children and the liability of the PTO if something would happen to a student during a PTO function with a non-cleared parent. Dr. Kolonay and the solicitor said that the school would hold the liability. The discussion ended that the school board will discuss the issue and come to a conclusion. They did not set a time frame. It was said that the school district will continue to follow the policy stated on the website and that Dr. Kolonay will meet with PTO Presidents to determine which events would be considered appropriate for “Occasional Volunteers” because not every event will have a “Cleared Staff Member” present to watch and be responsible for the non-clearance parents.

The Board will hold its next public meeting on December 7th. The School Board email is ptschoolboard@aol.com. Emails sent there to express opinions will be distributed to all members.

Attend your PTO meetings to express your views for your school and to hear further developments.
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Bumblebee

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Re: Clearances for Parent Volunteers

Post  Pee Kaa on Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:21 pm

What was interesting about this whole issue was that one of the PTO presidents that spoke in favor of keeping requirements for clearances in place made a statement to the effect of, I will not have one of my volunteers responsible for supervising a parent that does not have clearances. Not an exact quote but something like that. Later in the discussion she made the statement that she would approve the parent without clearances to put her name in the hat for helping out at an upcoming party. A little contradictory if you ask me.
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Re: Clearances for Parent Volunteers

Post  Bumblebee on Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:17 pm

The contradictions are the issue. The district's posted policy about occasional volunteers was put up without communicating it to PTO presidents; the other part was being followed for all. Now the PTO officers and building principal have to deal with this objection to enforcing what they thought was the official policy, plus with qualms about what is safe and practical.

Putting her in the hat was done to follow official district policy while it's being hashed out. With elementary parties at least, the class is in one room with the teacher there the whole time, and one of the party helper parents (who usually wouldn't be there for the party) easily included if necessary as in this case. So it was an easy and fair way to deal with the issue while the policy stands. (She was pulled as a helper, so by chance there's no immediate issue with her.)

However, the president's statement is what she and many other parents at that school would prefer for safety. The events that draw many occasional volunteers are big ones--Fun Day, Track and Field Day, field trips. They are large and busy, with students and volunteers moving everywhere inside and outside of buildings. Parent volunteers walk students to the bathroom, to the nurse, back to their classroom to get something forgotten, etc. etc. They may not be alone in the hall, but everyone's focus is on the students and making the event happen. They want to be with or near their own child and help create the experience and memories for the kids. Many would consider it pointless to attend if it is to babysit another parent, and that watcher-watched creepiness would not be a plus. No one has ever before had to distinguish who is allowed to go alone with a student or consider what constitutes "alone," and most people aren't going to bother thinking about it (and how would they be identified, with a big scarlet "U" for "uncleared"?). That kind of event is just the circumstance where a bad apple could escape notice.

The cost of clearances has become a legitimate major issue, although it has not reduced the number of volunteers starting with the policy from Kindergarten these past couple of years since the fingerprinting was added. It has been pointed out that it only needs to be done once, except for Deer Valley. The family in question is no worse off than you or I, but some thought should be given to those who are.

For now, it turns out that that building's PTO bylaws state that ALL volunteers must have clearances, so that is what will be followed for all PTO-sponsored events, which is nearly all. I doubt there would be much support for changing that.

I was rather appalled when I heard they trotted out their child. Of course this affects their child and other students, but unlike students thanking or asking for board support of a team or another direct student interest, this was all the parents' issue. I could bring my cute and articulate kids to say "please keep me safe by getting clearances from everyone," but they will never appear just to parrot my views.

Much as it pains my wallet, I've decided to repeat all my clearances on principle even though I'm grandfathered in for continuous service, because I think having clearances from everyone who volunteers in certain capacities is important for student safety. Defining which situations call for that is what needs to be examined and settled, then communicated more clearly to all.
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