Pelham BOE may present updated background check policy at meeting

By BRIANA HARRIS / Staff Writer

PELHAM – Pelham Superintendent Dr. Scott Coefield said during a work session on Wednesday, Nov. 16, that he hopes he and the school board can present a revised version of the system’s background check policy for parents to view at the next school board meeting on Monday, Nov. 28.

Coefield presented a draft of the revised policy to the Pelham Board of Education and asked them to review it and provide feedback prior to the Nov. 28 meeting. Coefield said the plan is to make the revised policy available to parents on the school’s website.

Parents would be allowed to review the policy and provide feedback before the board votes on changes.

The current policy, which requires anyone who wants to eat lunch with a student to submit to and pass a criminal background check, has been under heavy scrutiny since September. Some parents and local leaders have been calling upon the school board to do away with the policy.

“From the beginning, my issue was student safety and I believe this draft resolves all of the issues I originally had,” Coefield said.

The draft of the revised policy offers a variety of ways to ensure student safety. It proposes criminal background checks for anyone who wishes to be a school volunteer, a chaperone or participate in any other activities that require them to supervise students. Parents would have to pay for the background check.

Parents who like to participate in school day activities, such as eating lunch with students, would be required to notify the school a few hours in advance so that principals know who is in the school at all times and can arrange appropriate supervision.

“This would require more planning and preparation for parents but it also eliminates the issue of background checks for lunches,” Coefield said.

The draft also proposes implementing a visitor management system that would use someone’s government issued ID to check to make sure visitors aren’t on the sex offender database before they’re allowed to enter a school. If a visitor doesn’t have an ID, their name and birthday can be entered into the system manually.

If implemented, the visitor management system would be used at all times, for all visitors, with the only exception being widely attended school events. Pelham City Schools would absorb the cost of implementing the system.

The draft of the revised policy outlines rules that parents would be asked to abide by, and school principals would have the right to revoke the privileges of parents who don’t follow the rules. It would be at the principal’s discretion to cancel lunch visits for the day if any safety concerns arise.

If the school board approves the revised policy, it would not be implemented until the 2017-2018 school year. The current policy would remain in place for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year.