The Effects of Background Checks on Schools: Volunteers, Athletics, Staff

Background checks are shaping school staff and volunteers all across the country. Various news stories from the past month show that schools are revising their background check policies for volunteers, unlicensed teachers, and student athletes. For staff, revising policies has not affected numbers; the amounts of volunteers and unlicensed teachers are still sufficient. For athletes, on the other hand, coaches object to recent criminal background checks conducted by CBS and Sports Illustrated on college athletes.

In Marietta, Ohio, more background checks are being performed on volunteers. 400 screenings have been run, and those who pass receive photographic identification badges. The district’s policy involves screening anyone interested in interacting directly with students; volunteers not with students are exempt. Checks look for felonies and misdemeanors.

Although increased checks have decreased the number of overall volunteers, the school district still has enough individuals at school functions.

In Utah, the Washington County School Board sees that background checks are necessary for all staff members, including unlicensed employees, and has revised its policy. Background checks have been conducted every five years on unlicensed employees, and each individual paid $44 each. With the revised policy, all unlicensed teachers pay the full fee.

While these two policies affect smaller school districts, a recent six-month study on criminal backgrounds of student athletes appears to hit college teams across the nation. Some, such as University of Wisconsin-Madison, think this study is too invasive and does not consider players’ behaviors at school.

The story from UW-M’s paper mentions a school player who was charged with burglary in 2007; since his time on the school’s team, however, this student has complied with school policies. The coaches for UW-Madison’s football teams think that background checks should not single out athletes but, instead, should be done on all students.

Back in July, we discussed a then-recent news story about including criminal background checks with the Common Application and how schools should use and evaluate this information. Do you think background checks should be required of all college students or athletes alone?