Screening contemplated

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

In an effort to continue improving the safety of its students, Elkin City Schools Board of Education is considering background screening on all volunteers in the school system.

Superintendent Dr. Myra Cox explained during Monday’s board meeting, at present, the school system only background checks those volunteers who are serving as chaperones on overnight field trips.

“I have discovered a need, or at least a consideration, for background checks on all of our volunteers,” said Cox as she introduced the topic for discussion. “Any of our volunteers who go in our schools during the day or as chaperones on daytime field trips with our students are not screened, so I wanted to bring that to your attention and see what your feelings are regarding the school system paying for the background screenings for all our volunteers.”

She said about 50 to 55 regular volunteers enter the schools, with many of those at the elementary school.

The school system uses Background Investigation Bureau (BIB) to do checks for substitute teachers and new hires, at a cost of $7 per person for a criminal history and to check the sex offender registry.

Cox said the 50-plus would increase, probably double or more, at Elkin Elementary School where a number of different parents chaperone and volunteer with the younger classrooms.

“I feel the rationale as safety as top priority that we should now the background of any person that comes into our buildings to work with students, whether it’s one-on-one tutoring, a small group of remedial session, or just in the classroom assisting teachers with whatever help they need as volunteers,” said Cox.

Surry, Yadkin and Wilkes school systems are screening all of their volunteers, Cox added of research done by Allison Moxley, the system’s human resources director.

School board member Dr. Jane Riley, who works in Iredell County Schools as an instructor, questioned Elkin Elementary School Principal Pam Colbert about the potential impact the screenings might have on the school’s volunteer force.

“I think in today’s climate if it’s approached in the right way I don’t feel like our volunteers would be turned away or feel like that we are in anyway trying to single out or make a big deal of it,” said Colbert. “I don’t think it would offend any of our current volunteers. I think it would just reiterate to them that safety is important to us and we want children to be provided a safe environment.”

James Freeman, who was elected as the new chair of the school board Monday, also noted that his church requires any volunteers working with children or youth be background checked as well.

In response to a question from Elkin Middle School Principal Lisa Pendry, Moxley said the background checks are recommended to be good for three years, and BIB sends alert emails anytime someone is charged or cited with something as minor as a traffic incident.

Board member Frank Beals suggested that Cox and the staff put together a package for the January meeting with specifics so the board can be prepared to vote on the topics. Also, it was suggested that they look into whether it would be need to be handled as a policy item.

With the holidays in November and December, the school board combined its two meetings into one on Monday. The next meeting will be Jan. 22, 2018.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

Elkin schools to consider background checks for all volunteers

By Wendy Byerly Wood