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School board faces policy questions

September 25, 2012
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer (ws) , Weirton Daily Times

WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Board of Education was questioned on Monday by two parents about its policy regarding background checks for volunteers.

Sasha Hendrickson of Wellsburg told the board Monday she doesn't believe the policy is fair. She said checks aren't performed for all volunteers, a questionnaire completed by potential volunteers doesn't specify crimes for which they may have been convicted and there isn't a formal appeals process for those who are denied permission to volunteer.

Hendrickson said the policy states school officials may call for a criminal background check and the questionnaire asks if a person has been arrested for a felony or misdemeanor and asks for documentation of that.

"Many people are charged with crimes they are not convicted of in varying degrees of severity. If a person hasn't been convicted of a crime that is cited as a criteria for denial, that isn't your business," she said.

Hendrickson suggested the questionnaire ask if a prospective volunteer has been convicted of child abuse, child neglect, child endangerment, domestic violence or a sexual offense.

Marty Bartz, assistant superintendent of schools, said following the meeting a database used at Brooke High School to screen potential volunteers for all Brooke County schools indicates, with the swipe of a driver's license, whether the person is a registered sexual offender and nothing else.

Bartz said applicants who state they have been arrested for other crimes are referred to the Brooke County prosecutor's office to determine whether there are grounds to deny them from volunteering at schools.

He agreed the applicants should be asked whether they have been convicted, instead of arrested. But he said the questionnaire shouldn't specify crimes because the prosecutor's office and school board may find reason to deny applicants convicted of crimes other than those mentioned by Hendrickson.

Bartz acknowledged the cost for full background checks for applicants is an issue.

Earlier school board members said it costs $50 for each background check, and requiring prospective volunteers to pay that, as prospective school employees do, could deter volunteering.

The school board added the sexual offender database at the high school earlier this year after Hendrickson asked it to screen volunteers.

Hendrickson had complained earlier that another parent with a criminal record was present for a field trip and school party. The woman wasn't a volunteer approved by the board, but Hendrickson suggested school officials have a responsibility to ensure its volunteers haven't been convicted of felonies.

Kathy Kidder, superintendent of schools, said there is an appeals process for those denied permission to volunteer.

The board routinely considers volunteers at its regular meetings.

Bartz said of 137 who submitted volunteer applications this fall, none were denied.

Another parent, Betty Parr of Colliers, raised concern about private information from the screenings falling into the wrong hands.

Parr said she supports background checks being performed but wants to know what private information, such as Social Security numbers, is displayed when the check is done.

She added she would be comfortable if a sheriff's deputy performed the check but not if it were done by a security guard.

Bartz told Parr he doesn't know what specific information is displayed on the computer screen and would check into it.

Parr also asked when volunteers are required to undergo the tuberculosis tine test and was told just once, when applying.

Bartz said the tests are offered weekly at the Brooke County Health Department as well as other medical facilities.

In other business, the board approved the hiring of Kolbey Seidel as a special education teacher at Wellsburg Middle School, Meredith Hood as Follansbee Middle School girls basketball coach; Tim Pannett as Brooke High School freshman boys basketball coach; Ron Javorsky as Wellsburg Middle School eighth grade girls basketball coach; Diane Kohelis, Antoinette Perkins, Jami Packer and Suzanne Davidson as mentor teachers; Michael Findling as physical education instructor at Wellsburg Middle School; Floyd Ference as custodian at Wellsburg Middle School, Allison Leonard as cook at Brooke High School, Linda Johnson and Lisa Caruso as aides and autism mentors for the Brooke High School pre-school program and Jefferson Primary School, respectively.

It also approved the hiring of many substitute teachers and service personnel.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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