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KCSD suspends SLED check fees

Posted: August 23, 2011 4:56 p.m.
Updated: August 24, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District is temporarily suspending a new $25 S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) background check for volunteers. KCSD Communications Director Mary Anne Byrd said the move is in response to concerns from community members.

“We are taking a step back to reevaluate the situation, and we are suspending the fee requirement for volunteers, except those involved in overnight field trips,” Byrd said, adding that a committee of “community stakeholders” and KCSD personnel will soon be formed to recommend procedures that can be put into place.

In the past, after an applicant filled out a volunteer application at a KCSD school, a volunteer coordinator conducted a free background check on the applicant through the national sex offender registry. Approved applicants were then placed on the school district’s volunteer list.

KCSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Connie Long recently researched how other school districts handled background checks -- including in Richland County School Districts One and Two, York School District Three, and Richland/Lexington School District Five. Afterward, the KCSD human resources department proposed a new two-tier volunteer system in March that would be implemented during the current school year.

As a procedural change, Byrd said it wasn’t required to be voted on by the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees. During an October 2010 school board meeting, several trustees expressed interest in using SLED background checks for volunteers.

Under the new volunteer procedures, only Level II volunteers would be required to pay the $25 fee associated with the more extensive criminal background and SLED check. The check would only be valid for one year, and applicants would be required to reapply and pay the fee on a yearly basis.

Level II volunteers are individuals whose activities may require time for unsupervised visits with a student, and includes day field trip volunteers, volunteers participating in overnight travel with students, student teachers, practicum and field placement students, coaches, tutors, chaperones and mentors.

Level I volunteers, those who have no solitary student contact, would not be required to pay the fee and would be subjected to the same background checks that have been conducted in the past.

Level I volunteers include ticket collectors, office helpers, guest speakers, library helpers, room parent, School Improvement Council members, etc.

“I think there was a bit of miscommunication out there. I think people thought that anyone volunteering in the schools would have had to pay the $25 fee, but that wasn’t the case,” Byrd said.

She said the school district receives no money from conducting SLED checks, and that non-profit organizations are charged an $8 fee.

“The (S.C. Department of Education) said that’s not the category for school districts. We have to go under the category that is a $25 charge,” she said, adding penalties would be levied against the school district if it tried to improperly categorize themselves as a non-profit organization, or align with a non-profit organization to qualify for the reduced fee.

The newly-formed committee is expected to bring a decision to the board by October. In the meantime, Byrd said the only volunteers required to pay the $25 fee will be persons involved in overnight field trips.

 “We just want the best environment for students, staff and volunteers,” she said.

 

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