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Brooke County school board adopts volunteer policy

April 4, 2012
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - All individuals interested in volunteering in Brooke County Schools and all visitors to Brooke High School will be required to undergo a computerized criminal background check in the near future, said school officials.

On March 26 the Brooke County school board approved a policy calling for all volunteers and visitors to the high school to submit a driver's license or state-issued photo identification to be entered into a computer to determine if that person is on the FBI's registry of sexual offenders.

In the event they are identified as a sexual offender, the person wouldn't be permitted to volunteer at any Brooke County school or to enter Brooke High School.

Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said the person's name also will be checked against a separate database of information submitted by school officials, such as whether that person has been restricted by a court of law from entering a school or having contact with their child.

The new policy also prohibits anyone with "a past conviction of a felony, a crime against a child, domestic violence, or other crime involving violence against a person" from volunteering in a Brooke County school.

It states such volunteers "include but aren't limited to academic coaches, tutors, chaperones and concession stand workers."

It doesn't apply to volunteer coaches, who are covered by a different policy.

Under the new policy, applications submitted by prospective volunteers will ask a new question: whether that person has ever been charged or convicted of a crime.

The prospective volunteers won't be required to undergo a criminal background check, something school officials feared would deter them because of the cost involved.

Instead, the assistant superintendent may require the individual undergo the background check at his or her expense, as the school district's teachers, coaches and other staff are required to do under state law.

Sasha Hendrickson, a parent who has requested background checks for volunteers, asked why the policy states the expense for such checks is currently $45.10, when school officials said the cost was $50 in the past. She added checks are available through the West Virginia State Police for $28.85.

Superintendent Kathy Kidder said she and others were giving a rough estimate of the cost for a national background check, and the lower price cited by Hendrickson is for a database that applies to West Virginia only.

Hendrickson said the new policy appears to discriminate because not all volunteers would be required to undergo a check. She said an individual not permitted to volunteer also should have the right to appeal that decision to the board.

Hendrickson has encouraged the board to adopt a policy for volunteers, citing a case she said of a parent convicted of a felony being permitted to attend school functions such as parties or field trips.

She said the board, which approves volunteers for sports and other activities, has an obligation to ensure they don't present a risk to students.

Brooke County Assistant Prosecutor David F. Cross, the board's legal counsel, said the policy won't apply to parents attending school events.

Asked whether visitors to other schools will be screened through the database, Bartz said there currently aren't plans to do that but it could be done in the future.

He said state funds for school security measures will be used to pay about $5,000 for the high school's equipment, which will be operated by the security guard there.

Bartz said visitors to the other schools may enter or not at the principals' discretion, depending on circumstances.

The board also approved another security measure: the addition of 48 surveillance cameras and two digital video recorders to be placed in hallways and other common areas at the high school.

The cameras will be purchased from Tri-State Security of Steubenville at a cost of $27,886, also using state school security funds.

In other business, the board:

Agreed to provide $25,000 for one of two school prevention and resource officers. Kidder said the board previously contributed $11,250 toward matching funds for a $60,000 grant secured by the Brooke County Sheriff's Department.

But this year cuts to the state P.R.O. grants resulted in the sheriff's department receiving just $20,000. The same cuts also have led to the number of officers being reduced from three to two, with one being shared between Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools, and the other at Brooke High School.

Agreed to extend the school's Easter break to include April 5 and 6 using a day that would have been used to make up for a cancellation due to weather.

Heard from Perry West, former head baseball coach at Brooke High School, who asked for plaques to be displayed at the ballfield to recognize those who worked to raise funds for it; and Mel Clark, a Follansbee High School alumnus, who asked for the school's football stadium to be named in memory of Doug Stone, a football coach and teacher at the school from 1952 to 1961 who led the team to four OVAC championships and four Ohio Valley All-Star games.

The board suggested West approach the Brooke County Schools athletic facilities committee, a volunteer group pursuing improvements to the school's athletic facilities, about the plaques.

Board member Chad Haught asked Clark whether Stone also could be honored with a plaque, saying naming the stadium for him could cause hurt feelings among others who may support naming the stadium for someone else.

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

 
 

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