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Hanover debates criminal background checks for volunteer coaches

Hanover debates criminal background checks for volunteer coaches

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Hanover County School Board members on Tuesday questioned the fairness and necessity of one member’s suggestion to require volunteer coaches at county schools to undergo full criminal background checks.

Volunteer coaches currently are checked against the Virginia Sex Offender Registry during the application process but do not undergo a full criminal background check, according to Assistant Superintendent Charla C. Cordle. Principals review and approve the volunteer coach applications. The Hanover school system has about 50 volunteer coaches, Cordle said.

All paid school employees must undergo a full criminal background check.

Hanover School Board member Norman K. Sulser, who suggested the policy change, said that paid coaches and volunteer coaches work side by side and should be subjected to the same scrutiny of the full background check.

The cost of a full criminal background check for an applicant is $37.

School Board member Susan “Sue” P. Dibble, on the other hand, said at Tuesday’s School Board meeting that it was unfair to hold volunteers to the same standard as a paid employee. Dibble questioned what exactly school officials would be flagging in a criminal background check.

“We need to identify what it is we need to protect our children from,” Dibble said.

Dibble and School Board member John F. Axselle III both said it’s unclear what school officials would be trying to achieve if they start running full criminal background checks on volunteer coaches.

Axselle said the school system needs to figure out what kind of criminal history would bar applicants from volunteering.

“What criminal activity do we suspect a volunteer would have,” Axselle asked. “Are we trying to protect them from murder? From fraud?”

Cordle told board members that she doesn’t know of any volunteer coaches who have been a problem in Hanover.

“Are we trying to fix something that’s not broken?” Axselle asked in response.

Some School Board members said that it would be unfair to require volunteer coaches to undergo the full background check and not other volunteers, such as classroom volunteers and extracurricular volunteers.

Henrico County conducts a full criminal background check for volunteer coaches. Chesterfield County and Richmond both require volunteer coaches to be checked against the sex offender registry.

Cordle explained that it can take up to a month to get the results of the fingerprint test that is part of the full background check.

“Do you hold that person from volunteering?” Cordle asked.

Superintendent Jamelle S. Wilson said the staff will look into the issue in more detail and work toward making a recommendation on the matter in the next couple of months.

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Twitter: @Chuang2012

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