Local News

Wake County Schools To Take Closer Look At Volunteers

Posted July 22, 2004

— In just a few weeks, students on a traditional school calendar will head back to classrooms. Volunteers who help them out will, too, but in Wake County, they will see some changes.

New policies are designed to protect students from unsavory helpers.

Green Year Round Elementary School, like others in the county, depends on volunteers to help the school run smoothly.

"They do everything," principal Annice Hood said. "We have volunteers who come in and work in small groups of students, we have volunteers that help monitor the classroom if the teacher has to step out."

Starting in August, all volunteers will have to register through an online database maintained by Wake County Schools. The school system also has new standards for background checks.

"We want to ensure when volunteers go into schools, children aren't facing risks," said Cynthia Chamblee of Wake County Schools.

Brochures were sent to schools Wednesday, explaining four levels of volunteering. Levels one and two are volunteers who have supervised interaction with students or no interaction. They do not require background checks.

"This may mean that you do clerical work, that you work on the grounds of the school," Chamblee said.

Level three and four volunteers have direct contact with students, including unsupervised contact and require background checks.

"Going on an overnight field trip with children, if you are in a position where you drive a child," Chamblee explained

Denise Stephenson, a parent and school volunteer, says its about time.

"These are our kids, our future. We need to make sure they're OK," she said.

Administrators know the system will not be foolproof, but another way to help keep kids safe.

The school system budgeted $20,000 for an outside agency to conduct the background checks. People who have felony convictions cannot volunteer.

The school system's security director will make the call for misdemeanors on a case-by-case basis.

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