New Visitor and Volunteer Policy

DeKalb Schools administration has been revising the Visitor and Volunteer policy since last year. They continue to accept, evaluate and incorporate feedback.

This week they proposed the latest version of the policy. They will continue to take feed back this month and the board will take another look at it in April.

My Feedback

Level 2 volunteer requirements need to be reworded, I find it somewhat confusing. I’m also thinking it is still a bit restrictive.

The administration is looking to move this from policy to regulation, which means the Superintendent can change this at will. Orson and I asked them to move it back to policy, so it can be set in stone. They can move into regulation anything that really needs to be flexible.

I would also like the school district to accept secure transfers of background checks from other police departments.

Your Feedback

Let me know your thoughts and questions about the new revision. Please comment on this post here. Also, you can provide feedback directly to the district here:

School Volunteers Policy – Feedback


Volunteers Policy

The DeKalb County Board of Education recognizes the importance of visitors and volunteers who play an important role in supporting, encouraging, and advancing student achievement. Parents and others who wish to support student achievement are encouraged to participate in parent and community engagement activities at approved school or district-sponsored activities.

In support of student safety, all schools and administrative offices are required to identify and screen all volunteers in accordance with the supporting administrative regulation.

The superintendent or designee shall establish such procedure and necessary regulations to administer this policy.

Volunteers Regulation

Volunteers are a valued part of the DeKalb County School District and contribute to overall student academic achievement, school climate and culture. The following regulation defines volunteer, outlines volunteer levels, and provides volunteer expectations to promote student safety.

Definitions

Volunteers are non-paid persons authorized to perform volunteer services at approved school or district-sponsored activities. All volunteers must complete, the volunteer registration process which includes submission of the Volunteer Application and Release Form. Volunteers who will come into direct contact with students who are not their own must also complete mandated reporter training per O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 prior to participating in any volunteer activities. The school must maintain documentation that the volunteer has completed the Volunteer Application and Release Form, mandated reporter training and any other required training. The documents will be maintained at the school for the current academic year.

Volunteers will be issued volunteer badges, which must be displayed at all times while on school property. School volunteers must sign-in and out in the school office and obtain a visitor badge in accordance with policy KM – Visitors to School and school procedures.

The District recognizes the following three levels of volunteers:

Level 1
Level 1 volunteers are non-district personnel who engage in supervised volunteer activity but will have no interaction with students, such as volunteers working on playground construction or assisting with facilities maintenance when school is not in session. Level 1 volunteers do not require criminal background checks. Prior to service, Level 1 volunteers will be required to sign a Volunteer Application and Release Form, which will be kept on file at the school. Registered sex offenders will not be allowed to volunteer.

Level 2
Level 2 volunteers are non-district personnel who will have supervised interaction with students such as school day field trip chaperones or assisting a teacher. Prior to service, Level 2 volunteers are required to submit a Volunteer Application and Release Form and Criminal History Release Form, and GBI criminal background check. Registered sex offenders will not be allowed to volunteer.

Level 3
Level 3 volunteers must be approved by the Department of Public Safety and the principal of the school prior to participating in activities involving direct, unsupervised interaction with students. Examples of Level 3 volunteers include chaperones on overnight field trips or any other volunteers who will have unsupervised interaction with students. Level 3 volunteers shall be fingerprinted by the district and have GBI/FBI criminal background checks on file prior to volunteer services. This background check requires a fee and must be conducted by the Department of Public Safety. Registered sex offenders will not be allowed to volunteer.

Exceptions
This policy does not apply to individuals who are working pursuant to a vendor contract with the district to provide services. Such individuals must follow the terms of their company’s vendor agreement with the district.

Expectations of Volunteers
Volunteers must adhere to the same guidelines set forth for employees and should not engage in inappropriate communication and/or contact with students at any time.

In accordance with OCGA 19-7-5(c) (1), volunteers are considered mandated reporters in cases of suspected abuse. Reports of suspected abuse should be made to the school administrator or their designee.

Disqualification of Volunteers
Parents/guardians who are excluded from volunteer activities may attend public events at the school such as Parent Teacher Association meetings and student activities directly related to their student. See Board Policy KM: Visitors to Schools

Access to Student Information
School volunteers shall not have access to student information, including Infinite Campus, without express written consent from the parents/legal guardians of the students.

23 responses to “New Visitor and Volunteer Policy

  1. Want to talk to Superintendent Green or his senior administrators? Get there early and have one on one conversations … or ask questions at the meeting.

    On the Scene with Dr. Green- March 2019 @ Dunwoody High School
    Mar 14 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
    Learn about the DeKalb County School District and get answers to your questions from Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green.

    All meetings begin promptly at 7 p.m.

  2. Catherine Barfield

    When will a new policy likely go into effect? I am supposed to chaperone an overnight trip in late April and just want to make sure we are all prepared. Thanks.

  3. Catherine, the new policy could go into effect early April. If there is a chance that you need a background check, it wouldn’t hurt to get it done.

  4. For Level 1 volunteers, who verifies that they are not registered sex offenders?

    Does this mean that groups from companies like Home Depot who come and build playgrounds will have to verify that their employees are not registered sex offenders, or will the school be required to do that? Seems like that’s a mighty big job for a school, as volunteers often make a “game day” decision about whether to participate.

    It sounds good but the devil is in the details.

    If it’s a school level responsibility, then I guess a parent volunteer with kids at multiple schools will really get checked out.

    I’m guessing that the “Criminal History Release Form, and GBI criminal background check” for Level 2 volunteers and the fingerprints and “GBI/FBI criminal background checks” would verify that they are not registered sex offenders.

  5. BarbaraFountain

    They speak of teacher’s raises , etc but seem to forget para’. With small children, they are a necessity and many work as hard and long days as teachers.i know this was not what the comments discuss but it needs to be brought up.

  6. Stan Jester

    Hey @BarbaraFountain. This last raise was in response to the Comp and Class study. It was supposed to make all salaries for all employees competitive. Granted, the classified employee salary schedules are being revisited. The certified salary schedules are the only ones that have been implemented thus far.

  7. Longtime Teacher

    This policy is going to make it impossible for groups to have chaperones for events. Our marching bands, for example, need 10 or more chaperones per week for games. Will these background checks come with a cost? If so, how will these groups that need chaperones bear that cost, and how could any organization ask a large number of their parent base to bear that cost? This is a heavy handed solution that will, once again, put dekalb student groups at a disadvantage over their metro Atlanta counterparts.

  8. Stan Jester

    @LongtimeTeacher, Can you be more detailed about your chaperones example?

  9. Longtime Teacher

    Glad to help.

    Let’s take a typical high school marching band as an example. For a 100-member marching band, the county requires a minimum of 8-10 chaperones per trip. As there are no home stadiums in our county, every football game requires buses and chaperones. For the ten-game regular season, that’s 80-100 chaperone slots that need to be filled. Some parents will do multiple games, but many will only do one or two, requiring around 40-50 parents to fill these needs. Add two competitions to that (which is fairly standard), and there’s another 20 slots for parents to sign up. Bands try to have as many different parents do this in a season as it drastically increases fundraising and booster participation, which is necessary for a program to have the funding that it needs to survive.

    In the spring, each music program has to participate in an evaluation process. Our program has 18 slots for these trips as well that need to be filled by parents. As one teacher can’t be on multiple buses, would these chaperones have to have level 3 clearance?

    Staff members that work with our marching band are already fingerprinted, and if they supervise students directly, are in the lay coach program. Would this policy replace that process?

    Currently, I know that Fulton County has a process like this, but many parts can be done online, often on-site in a school’s front office. It can be found at https://www.fultonschools.org/Page/3005

    Their definitions are a little different and more accurate for what programs that use parent volunteers actually need, and many of the volunteer application processes can be done at home or on site at schools. Part of the process is to educate these potential volunteers on how to recognize evidence of child abuse, which is a very valuable thing and something that protects children and volunteers. If DeKalb were to implement the Fulton County model without trying to reinvent the wheel, I think it could work well. I worry that, like so many new policies that require paperwork, it will not be implemented in any sort of feasible way and will be a huge hindrance to the operation of many arts of our school system.

  10. Stan Jester

    Thanks Longtime Teacher. I’ll hit up our legal department. I’ll post any responses here.

  11. Will there be a fee for the background check, etc.? At my daughter’s school, the DeKalb School of the Arts, parents are required to volunteer 40 hours a year. I’m afraid it will be really off-putting (and financially difficult for some) to require parents to pay as well. And DSA needs MANY volunteers to operate (especially since our production budget was cut by $30,000 at the beginning of the year). We have something called Scenery Saturday, where lots of parents come to school and build stages and sets, help with costumes, paint scenery, set up lights and sound systems, etc. If all these parents require training and a background check, I’m afraid our school will have a major problem. I hope the county intends to establish a school-based, streamlined, and convenient system for parents to meet these requirements every year.

  12. @TuckerMom. Good question. There is a fee associated with background checks. Building stages and sets sounds like a “Level 1 Volunteer” since they will not be interacting with students and therefore will not require a background check.

  13. Parents, students, staff, and other tech professionals work together on Scenery Saturdays. Which is something I hadn’t considered—would folks such as professional carpenters and electricians require background checks too?

  14. Active Parent

    This new policy will discourage a lot of parents who want to remain active at their child’s school. I understand if you intend on chaperoning an overnight trip with a school but what about schools like DECA who require us to volunteer for fundraisers, and come in to help assist with small activities for students on-site. REALLY!

    Parents who usually take time out prepping our kids to get into DECA or Arabia Mountain are a higher income demographic and want to be able to volunteer at-will when the school needs us! Which means I don’t want to just drop off snacks/water/paper/pencils or give monetary donations but want to help hands-on as well.

  15. @ActiveParent, Excellent points. Follow the link to provide the legal team feedback. Be sure to give them specific examples of volunteer situations where a background check is not feasible or will severely reduce the number of volunteers.

  16. FYI–when I clicked on the link to comment, it took me to the Board’s home page, and I had to click on “IFCD – School Volunteers” on the right under “Pending policies” to get to the comment page.

  17. Parent Volunteer

    I’m in favor of examining existing policies at other large school systems to understand what has worked well previously and where challenges exist. Policies at my church and in Scouting have training components. Will DCSD? One situation that could be interpreted as Level 1 or Level 2 is Registration Day at our middle and high schools. Many volunteers are needed to direct parents and students, distribute forms, sell Spirit Wear, complete PTSA membership forms, etc… Parents and students volunteer together. Is that Level 1 or 2? What about parents who serve food, facilitate crafts, or perform music for class celebrations at the end of the semester in elementary school? Do they need GBI background checks? Supervising students and distributing water on Field Days? Background checks? Will there be background checks for Career Day speakers?

  18. Stan, When I click on the link for feedback, it takes me to the page with the pending policies on the far right hand side. When I open the pending volunteer/visiting policy, the only part visible is the “policy” which ends with the sentence: “The superintendent or designee shall establish such procedure and necessary regulations to administer this policy.”

    The volunteer regulations with definitions, Level 1, 2, 3 info is not even there! How is the general public that doesn’t read your blog supposed to find the details to give feedback (the devil is in the details for how this gets implemented – the “regulations” that the super can change at will)? The “policy” itself basically says nothing – it’s the regulations that will squash volunteers.

    I hope all the BOE gets on board with making this a detailed, reasonable policy, not a regulation.

  19. Administrative Regulation on eBoard – The administration is requesting that the Volunteer Policy be moved from policy to administrative regulation. As a regulation, the superintendent can modify it at will. Currently, when you click on the policy for comment, the policy doesn’t come up with anything because it has been moved to regulation. I asked the administration to put the regulation up there so we can comment on it.

    The administration tells me they have been working on this issue saying,

    Currently, eBoard (aka Simbli) software does not have the option to load administrative regulations for public comment. We contacted GSBA regarding this concern and were informed that the software is programmed to load board policy only for public comment and not the regulation. Further, they communicated that board policy is the WHAT (board) and the administrative regulation is the HOW (the superintendent). At this point, we are unable to load the regulation for public comment. The software doesn’t allow it.

  20. Wow…thanks for trying Stan. But…if DCSD wanted input on the regulations, they could set up their own communication – after all, we are paying A LOT for a communications team. The regs could be sent by FB, Twitter, TrustED, DCSD app , posted on home page of DCSD web site and all school web sites since the DCSD controls them and they are all the same template, and they could be sent to all schools and asked to distribute via their enewsletters to parents and similar for staff to weigh in. In addition, they could also set up an email or other tool for receiving input.

    Their response tells me they aren’t working too hard to find a solution. So disgusted with DCSD

  21. Schools have turned into these weird prisons where the schools assume ownership of your kid. And you must check out your kid or verify where they’ve been. And you must go through some insane security procedure just to visit your own kid at school. Is this Communist China?

  22. @Jason, good question. Many schools are turning into prisons with fences, drug dogs and metal detectors. How responsible would you say the school is for the safety and security of the students? What security level would you like to see … prison type security protocols … or something more relaxed … like a mall?

  23. AB, Wow, are you suggesting that DCSD should ask its parent volunteers for input on its Volunteer Policy?

    What a concept. DCSD could at least reach out to PTSA/PTO groups or Principal Advisory Councils at each school for their thoughts.

    It is hard not to despair of DCSD sometimes. There is so much money, so many good teachers, yet there are so many obvious fumbles like this.

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