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NBC Montana takes a closer look at background checks for school volunteers

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 12 2013 07:57:00 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

We told you earlier this week how a Belgrade parent was worried after a volunteer held his six-year-old daughter's hand and asked for hugs.

The school district looked into it, and says it was a case of miscommunication and that the volunteer did nothing wrong.

Yet, the parent tells us he's still concerned after learning Belgrade Schools doesn't check the criminal backgrounds of their volunteers.

We looked up Montana's law when it comes to background checks and found they are required for all school employees.
     
Background checks are not required for volunteers as long as they are under teachers' supervision.
     
Volunteers must undergo a background check, however, if they are going to be alone with children.     
     
We called local schools in the area to find out their policy when it comes to background checks for volunteers and found that most districts- Gallatin Gateway, Manhattan and Bozeman Schools- only require background checks for those volunteers who are alone with children.
     
Folks with Ennis Schools tell me they require background checks for anyone working with kids.
     
Some parents tell me, that's how schools should operate.

"I think it should be mandatory, definitely. Anybody can come in and look like a good person but you don't know their past," says Bozeman mother of four Selah Barney.
     
Patti Blake is a grandmother. She says you can never be too careful these days and while she wouldn't insist on checks as much for parents of children attending the school, she does believe it should be required for all other volunteers.

"Even if it's somebody else's daddy or mommy, they don't always have the kids' best interest at heart and you just have to watch out. You don't know who lives next door to you," explains Blake.

Bozeman teacher Emmy Nadav tells us she'd like to think volunteers have the best intentions.

"Maybe it would be a good idea for background checks for volunteers. I mean, just to see what they're whole background is and to see what kind of intention they have for coming to the school," says Nadav.

But she says she doesn't think background checks are necessary for parent volunteers.

We also checked with other schools in the region and found that schools in Cody Wyoming fingerprint all of their employees and are now working to expand their policy to volunteers.
     
Volunteer coaches in Spokane must be fingerprinted but all other volunteers there go through a Washington state background check.
     
All Spokane volunteers are re-checked every two years.
     
They say the school district is also required to keep track of the number of volunteers and their hours and report that to the state.

All school volunteers in Portland, Oregon, must submit to a criminal background check.

In the Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, Colorado, occasional volunteers must be checked against the sex offender registry and folks who volunteer regularly have to submit to full background checks.