School volunteers to get more extensive background checks
In an ongoing effort to make local schools safer, the Crook County School District has subscribed to a company that performs more extensive national background checks than the current system.
"We believe this new service will enhance our ability to protect the safety of our students," CCSD Human Resources Director Sean Corrigan said. "It's going to give us a greater level of scrutiny during our background screening, and that is going to provide more assurance that our students are safe when community volunteers are in our schools or participating in our educational programs, such as field trips."
The cost for background checks for each school volunteer will increase from $4 to $16.95 per person next fall when the district begins using the new system.
Background Investigation Bureau will check against multiple names, also known as, and aliases in a national search, Corrigan pointed out. They will screen volunteers against the National Sex Offender Registry, look into pending cases and dig deeper into records.
For several years, the district has used Public Information Verification, a Redmond-based company.
"They've provided a good service for us, but we just believe this one is a little bit more comprehensive and enhances our ability to be safe," Corrigan said, noting that a few other regional school districts now use BIB. "It's kind of a look and see at this point in time to see how we like it and go from there."
Numerous potential volunteers would fill out the volunteer form each fall that came with their students' school registration papers. The district would pay Public Information Verification $3,000 to $4,000 each school year for background checks.
Over the past two years, the district has submitted between 825 and 850 volunteer applications for criminal background checks.
Many times, those potential volunteers were not called upon to help in the schools, even though the district had paid for their background checks.
"If we ask parents to fill it out, use them," board member Patti Norris said during a board meeting discussion. "Asking people to apply and give a lot of personal information to get background checked and then never use them is really bad volunteer management."
Going forward, the background check paperwork for potential district volunteers will not be given to every family. Instead, the new application will be on the district's website. Those who have arranged to volunteer will be directed to the online form.
Corrigan said Background Investigation Bureau, which is headquartered in North Carolina, has several advantages over the former system.
"We liked the comprehensive national criminal record search that this company performs and that it includes a National Sex Offender Registry search. We thought that was really important," he said.
BIB indicates that less than 50 percent of jurisdictions around the country actually participate in a national criminal database. In those situations, BIB actually goes to the courthouse or the justice buildings to retrieve information.
There is no up-front cost to subscribe to BIB, and they have a quick turnaround of one or two days. If they are having difficulties because it's a harder search, they guarantee five days.
Corrigan likes the fact that it's an online process and that BIB will create a volunteer database that the staff will be able to easily access.
If a potential volunteer does not meet the school district's criteria, BIB will send an adverse action letter to inform them that they will not be allowed to volunteer.
All approved volunteers will receive a credential identification card that they can present at the school in which they are approved to volunteer.
BIB will also send approved volunteers an email a month before their one-year background check expires, reminding them to reapply if they plan to continue to volunteer with the district.
Board members and administrators were in favor of the more extensive background checking system.
"It's 2018, and under the umbrella of keeping our schools safe and our kids safe, if you're going to get in from 8 to 3 and have access to our kiddos, we've got to know that you're a safe person," said Crook County Middle School Principal Kurt Sloper. "A more comprehensive, expedient search requires the monetary piece to go with it."
Board member Scott Cooper agreed.
"We have spent the last three to four months talking about the importance of students forming relationships with another adult as being critical to school safety," Cooper said. "If we have the opportunity to create relationships for a pittance, to me, that's money well spent."