Bill Requiring Background Checks For OK School Volunteers Moving through Legislature

Thursday, April 18th 2013, 6:47 pm
By: News 9

Parents could have to submit a background check before volunteering at a child's school if a proposed law passes the Oklahoma State Legislature.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless has been pushing the "Protect Against Pedophiles Act" which started in the House of Representatives as HB2228. The bill is aimed at regulating who can and cannot volunteer at schools based on criminal history as it would require potential volunteers to submit a background check.

According to Loveless, the threat to students has already been proven.

"A child out of Pennsylvania was raped three times by a volunteer, and then ended up killing themselves later on," Loveless said.

He has since designed a two-tier system: If the volunteer is going to be alone with students, that person would have to get a full FBI background check. Someone who would be in the presence of students with other adults around could submit a cheaper, less thorough background check through OSBI for $19.

Opponents say the bill was not written specific enough. Currently, the bill allows districts to arbitrarily decide who is fit to volunteer, according to attorney David Slane.

"If someone volunteers and they have a DUI in their past, [does] that mean they're no longer going to be fit to come to the school?," said Slane.

Slane says the bill would definitely protect students against sex-offenders, but cautions there could be legal challenges to the bill, depending on how school districts regulate who is fit to volunteer.

"I guarantee you there's going to be a school district that gets sued and they're going to spend thousands of dollars then defending the school district," he said.

But Loveless explained there has to be a way to regulate who volunteers at schools.

"I think it's something for our children that we need to do."

Loveless said this bill is more flexible than the one that failed last year, which would have mandated background checks for all school volunteers. This version would allow districts to opt out and require the volunteer to pay for the background checks.