Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why school background checks are doing a disservice to poor kids

In 2005 our state's schools started requiring a Criminal Records check before you could volunteer in your kid's school. This is a big mistake, in my opinion, because it presents yet another obstacle to parental involvement. Teachers will tell you that getting parents involved is the key to children's success in public schools. Inner city schools in particular, have a hard time getting parental involvement for lots of good reasons: language barriers, parents who work long hours, parents who have other, more immanent concerns like housing or food. This background check requires a form to be filled out and a copy of license brought in to the school, then a several month waiting period for it to be processed. This makes it impossible for a parent to chaperone a field trip *next week*. Kids in poverty move frequently. Each school change requires a new background check. Kids in poverty also sometimes have parents with criminal records. This policy discourages those with even minor offenses to try to visit their child's classrooms. No one wants their kids teachers knowing that they had been arrested. Even if the teachers have no knowledge of the results- it's not a risk many will take. Yes, children have a right to be safe. Every school has (or should have) a book of pictures of all the local sex offenders. Should any of them come near the school, the police can be called. But the rest of this is doing a disservice to our children, especially our poor children. Every classroom should be an open door for parents to come in and watch and participate. To discriminate against the kids who need the most parental support is disturbing.


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