Shawnee Mission moving away from fingerprinting requirement for school volunteers

Volunteers will no longer have to submit to fingerprinting as part of their background checks with the Shawnee Mission School District.

A procedural step that frustrated many parents who wanted to volunteer at Shawnee Mission schools is going away just months after it was enacted.

The board of education on Monday approved a new background screening system for volunteers that will no longer require them to submit fingerprints.

The district announced over the summer that as part of efforts to make the process more consistent from school to school and to increase overall security for students, anyone who wanted to be eligible to volunteer through the district’s My Volunteer Pal (MVP) program would have to both fill out an online application and provide fingerprint samples to be used in a background check.

But the fingerprinting requirement — which could only be fulfilled by visiting the Center for Academic Achievement during specific hours on Wednesdays — proved a hurdle for many would-be volunteers. Lines for fingerprinting backed up, making it difficult for parents on-the-go to find the time and creating a backlog of background checks that needed to be processed.

At Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved the purchase of background screening services provided by Validity Screening Solutions, which will require potential volunteers to submit their name, date of birth and social security number for background purposes. No fingerprinting will be required. Validity’s tool is also used by a number of neighboring school districts.

The district has a team meeting Thursday to discuss the official roll out of the new Validity screening tool.

Associate Superintendent for Instructional Support Rick Atha told the board Monday that using the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for its background check — which started this summer — the backlog of would-be volunteers had grown to around 500 people.

“That’s one of the reason for bringing this recommendation to you…is that we’re inconveniencing our volunteers,” Atha said. “Ninety nine point nine percent of them are great people that have a great background. I think we owe it to them to step it up a little and do our due diligence here to expedite this so we can get these volunteers working with our kids.”

Moreover, by using the Kansas Bureau of Investigation as its background check provider, the district was incurring costs higher than what it would have been paying through a private vendor. Validity Screening Solutions will charge the district no more than $35 per search and no more than $15 for additional surname searches for an individual. Under the KBI system, background checks cost more than $40 per person.

Board of Education Vice President Heather Ousley said she understood how the previous system had proved a hurdle to those who wanted to volunteer.

“To all the folks who had to stand in line for a significant period of time, we offer our sincerest, heartfelt apologies,” Ousley said.

Other portions of the MVP approval process will remain in place. Volunteers must still complete an application and attend an in-person training session, which are offered both at the Center for Academic Achievement and at individual school buildings. A schedule of training dates is here. MVP approval is required for volunteers who may participate in an activity where they have some supervisory capacity over individuals or small groups of students. These activities include:

  • Mentoring
  • Serving as a lunch buddy
  • Classroom or school volunteer
  • Sharing special talents or career interests
  • Tutoring
  • Being a friend who listens
  • Overnight chaperones for USD 512 approved field trips
  • Chat ‘n Chew
  • Watch Dogs
  • School field trips

You can find the MVP online application here.