and Recent Headlines Suggest Background Checks for Campus Volunteers and Coaches are on the Checklist for Schools this Season

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With the Labor Day three-day weekend becoming a fading memory, summer is coming quickly to a close. Thoughts of vacation and swimming pools and barbeques give way to the start of a new school year. And this season criminal background checks are on the menu.

Criminal Background Records

Criminal Background Records

Background checks are generally accepted and relied upon in the business world as a tool utilized in the hiring process. Increasingly, volunteer groups utilize background checks for the same general reasons a business might: Risk Mitigation.

Children and young adults gather up their new school supplies, dress in new clothes, and head out the door for another adventure in education. Teachers and administrations gear up for all the classroom activities and check off an extensive list of things-to-do.

Are criminal background checks for campus volunteers and coaches a part of that list?

Headlines over the last several weeks suggest they are:

  •     Background Checks Recommended For Coaches. (Shelbyville Times-Gazette, September 6, 2012,
  •     District Adds Screening Requirement For Some Volunteers. (ThisWeek Community News, September 5, 2012,

Background checks are generally accepted and relied upon in the business world as a tool utilized in the hiring process. Increasingly, volunteer groups utilize background checks for the same general reasons a business might: Risk Mitigation.

Risk is a component of business that most companies do not want to be overly involved with, specifically when it comes to employees and the safety of their workforce. The same holds true for organizations that utilizes volunteers, especially those involved with at-risk populations such as children.

As schools and school districts rely more and more on volunteers to assist in vital areas, the level and breadth of those background checked has increased. Paid employees such as teachers and administrative staff are background checked prior to employment, subsequently all volunteers involved in and or with similar activities as a teacher or administrator should be screened as well.

In Shelbyville, Ohio regulations over the use of background checks for Shelbyville youth sports team volunteers is under review.

The policy would require criminal background checks for anyone over 18 wishing to serve as a board member, head coach or any coach or referee who will be alone with players or responsible for a team during a game or practice.

It would apply to any youth sports leagues operating on city-owned or leased property, and the background screening would include Social Security verification, an address trace, a state-or county-wide criminal record check, a national criminal history database search and a check of the sex offender registry.

Most individuals would agree that background screening for coaches is a good thing, but a thing that is easier said than done. One concern is with the background screening reports becoming public record. One must remember that documents drawn in a volunteer background check are public record. Another concern is with missing records and that is certainly valid. Records are lost, improperly filled out, filled incorrectly: Any number of issues regarding the validity and accuracy of a public record exist. Additionally, concerns exist about time spent and cost.

Ultimately the article closes with the most important statement regarding coach background checks:
"The primary issue is the safety of children..."
The Pickering Local School District is requiring new background checks for:
...weekly reading assistants, chaperones and others who have unsupervised contact with students to undergo state and federal background checks.
These changes concern individuals that work outside the direct supervision of teachers and other district staff.
"This is for the volunteer that has unsupervised contact with our kids on or off campus,"

In Deerfield Beach, Florida frustrations have arisen in relation to volunteer background checks. A new regulation "...requires a national criminal background check and automatically disqualifies anyone found guilty at any point in their lives of a violent felony or sex crime, and it means the city's little league teams are looking for sixteen new volunteers."
The phrase "at any point in their lives" is key.

Each state has its own interpretation of what can and cannot be used in certain areas of background screening. While most employers cannot go farther back than seven years (depending on state) for criminal convictions history checks, apparently Deerfield Beach can go back nearly 24-years for a conviction of a violent felony or sex crime.

Bobby Cooper was caught trying to steal a lawn mower from a Target store in Deerfield Beach while high on crack cocaine 24 years ago. He went to jail for it, got clean in 1994 and has spent his time since then volunteering at prisons, churches, homeless shelters and sports fields. He's raised three kids. In 13 years of coaching, he said, he's become a father figure for a lot of boys who don't know their dads.

The regulations go further:

The new rules also disqualify those convicted of any other type of felony in the past 10 years, any violent misdemeanor in the past seven years, any two drug or alcohol offenses in the past 10 years, or any misdemeanor in the past five years that might be considered a potential danger to children.
While the article suggests that these stricter regulations on volunteers that may in fact be beneficial down the road and keep the at-risk youth population safer it highlights some of the issues inherent with volunteer background screening.

Who should be screened and who should not?

With children back in school and often times away from the watchful eye of fully vetted and screened school personnel is critical that extra protections be put in place. The old adage, better safe than sorry, certainly plays well in these situations.

Volunteer background screening for coaches can be challenging. Many districts struggle with the best approach. Others take a direct approach and volunteer background check all that come in contact with children, across the board.
As headlines such as these continue to appear on-line and in-print it is clear that background checks for coaches and campus volunteers are on the minds of many. In the end it is about protecting the children and volunteer background checks is one step closer to peace-of-mind.

If your school district or volunteer group needs assistance in setting up a volunteer background check program, one that operates within local, state, and federal regulations, contact Their experience and industry knowledge will allow one to set up a program that is both cost effective and broad enough to fulfill any requirement.

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