Changes made in 2014 to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services law have local school districts concerned about the possible administrative and monetary ramifications regarding volunteer requirements. According to the law (part of Keep Kids Safe PA, which involves 24 legislative components that address child safety concerns), all current and existing volunteers who work with children must undergo mandatory background checks. The law requires three mandatory screenings ranging from the local police department to the federal level. Additionally, volunteers must have those checks renewed every five years. Examples of affected volunteers include school coaches, chaperones, and tutors, and anyone with unsupervised access to children.
The scope of the changes to the Child Protective Services law affect individuals outside of educational institutions, but Pennsylvania school districts have already found themselves inundated with the time-consuming task of regulating volunteer background checks and familiarizing themselves with the multitude of changes.
Some school administrators also worry that the cost of the background checks will dissuade some individuals from volunteering in schools, but the governor waived background check fees for volunteers, and reduced the cost for employees, who have to undergo the same screening processes.
Volunteers can complete some of the required screenings online, but they must also submit fingerprints as part of their FBI criminal background check. Pennsylvania businesses that perform fingerprinting services, like UPS, have seen over double the amount of traffic with the new volunteer requirements.
While constructive utilization of time and money is always an important consideration for any governmental change, Pennsylvania’s priority in Keep Kids Safe PA is undeniably the welfare of its children. A few dollars for a screening and extra time for administrators, as exhaustive as it may seem, could prevent an individual with a threatening criminal history from having exclusive access to a vulnerable demographic. When all is said and done, Keep Kids Safe PA legislation is stronger in accomplishing the movement’s goals.