Background screening with fingerprints now in place for Shawnee Mission volunteers with direct student contact

Briarwood Elementary is one of three district schools struggling with overcrowding, according to a recent demographer's report.
Briarwood Elementary hosted a training session Tuesday for volunteers who then must be fingerprinted.

Parents and community members who volunteer in Shawnee Mission schools and who have direct contact with students are now being required to go through a background screening and a training program.

The volunteers with direct contact also are required to be fingerprinted and fill out forms that require copies of a drivers license and other background information as part of the screening process. They also acknowledge the training by signing the standards of conduct. This will be required for volunteers who chaperone, tutor or mentor for example, and are in contact individually or with groups of students.

Volunteers who do not have direct student contact or who are under direct supervision of a district staff member do not have to go through the more rigorous screening, but are coordinated directly at the school through the visitor process. They will undergo basic screening for anyone coming into the building, but not as thorough as the fingerprint screening, according to district spokesperson Leigh Anne Neal. The second group could include volunteers with the front office, copy center, landscaping or a committee.

The training for direct contact volunteers is held at least twice a month at the McEachen Administrative Center and on-site at some buildings. Volunteers who took the training this week at Briarwood Elementary said the training program lasts less than an hour. The volunteers still need to go to McEachen for fingerprinting.

Neal said the district has had processes in place for some volunteers, such as its former YouthFriends program, for years but not for volunteers who may be with students through PTA or other activities. The district is moving to consistent protocols for volunteers in K-12, according to Neal.

“Safety of our students, staff and community members is paramount, so having thorough processes in place to ensure that safety is essential,” Neal said. Volunteers who have completed the screening and training are expected to be re-screened every five years if they are still an active volunteer.