Would-be parent volunteers, if not for the criminal background
I went to a PTA meeting last week at a city school with an interesting predicament: Some parents who want to volunteer in their children's classrooms can't because they have criminal backgrounds. The audience was thrilled to learn that the principal can apply to the CEO for a waiver for a particular parent. Dr. Alonso said he's willing to sign off on the waivers, provided that volunteers with certain crimes on their record never be left alone with children and that those with a history of drug abuse undergo periodic testing to demonstrate that the behavior is truly in the past. One mother at the meeting who said she's been clean eight years was so happy to learn about the waiver process that she broke down in tears.
As the city school system strives to recruit 500 volunteers in two weeks, it faces a delicate balancing act. On one hand, officials need to do everything they can to protect the safety of the children. On the other, children are better off when their parents are involved in their education, and many parents in the city have criminal histories.
If, in some neighborhoods, letting the community into a school means letting in people with criminal records, what's a principal to do?