Pelham City Schools is stepping up their game when it comes to background screening. Since becoming an independent school system two years ago, Pelham schools have had an “open door” policy when it comes to visitors coming to see students during lunch. However, according to AL.com, this past summer they expanded their volunteer background screening to include parents, grandparents, or anyone else who wants to come visit a student at lunch time.
According to WBRC FOX 6 in Birmingham, those who want to visit must also pay for the 7 year criminal background check, which is $15. When asked about the reasoning for the change, Dr. Scott Coefield, Superintendent of Pelham City Schools, stated, “We have so much parental involvement that the question came up, ‘How do we know everyone in our school is safe to be around our kids?”‘
So while the goal of the change is obviously to enhance the safety of the students, the changes have been met with a bit of backlash.
According to AL.com, one parent said the change simply doesn’t make sense. She mentioned out-of-town grandparents who might come to visit for a day or two, but won’t be able to eat lunch at school with their grandchildren. This parent also brings up what I feel is a valid point. Background checks are not required for those attending school programs or other school-related activities. Is there a difference? I guess that is up to each individual to decide.
The Alabama Family Rights Association is also voicing their concern about the policy, saying, “An automatic background check without evidence of illegal activity or wrongdoing creates a poor precedent for students’ and parents’ privacy.”
One final issue that was brought up was how the new procedures would impact low-income families or certain individuals who wouldn’t want to undergo a background check based on their immigration status.
According to Coefield, the issue of low-income families had already been looked at, and the fees for the screen had already been reduced. As for the issue regarding immigration, Coefield quoted, “I don’t make a commitment to bend the rules for people who can’t get the proper documentation.”
What do you think about the change? Should similar policies be adopted in other places, or do you think it is “a bit much”.
Feel free to post any comments below.