School volunteers cover cost, $51 in Pinellas, for required fingerprinting

6:49 PM, Sep 5, 2012   |    comments
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Pinellas County, Florida-Pinellas parents are learning this week of a volunteer policy that requires criminal background checks, and it's the volunteer that pays for it. 

The 2009 policy requires any volunteer that is left unsupervised around students to have a Level II clearance that requires finger printing.   

Seminole High School's Band Director says volunteers are the backbone of the school's band, and without them, they would have not been good enough to perform at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last year. 

"They're the team behind the team, and without them, the students don't have the success that we have. It's hundreds of people involved," says Daniel Wood, Band Director.

Next time these band volunteers give members a ride, or go on an overnight trip, they will need a criminal background check, which includes finger. 

"I expected the ink and everything; that was really easy," says Jim Kennedy, a band volunteer.

When the representative for EZ Fingerprints is finished taking the fingerprints using a laser, it's the volunteer who pays the $51 fee. 

Kennedy says, "It doesn't bother me; it's probably for the best because you never know who is going to be doing what with your kids."

Seminole High School's principal Walt Weller says, "As soon as you do finger printing check, you are really going into 'has this person been arrested?', which is going to make it safer for our kids, and that's ultimately what we are looking at."

There are security measures in place now. Anyone visiting a school is required to sign in at the main office and in most cases, their driver's license is swiped to make sure they are not a sexual predator or offender.

Some parents at Bay Vista Fundamental support the tougher policy, but worry it may back fire.

Christina, a parent at Bay Vista Fundamental says, "I think the cost will be prohibitive to some parents being able to afford to volunteer." 

Rob Joyner says he agrees with the extra screening. Rob says, "I think it's good; it gives a parent peace of mind. It gives you a little more security."

The band director says the booster club will try to help parents who can't afford the fingerprinting fee.

Ten News checked with other school districts. 

The policy in Manatee and Pasco is to never leave volunteers unsupervised. 

Hillsborough, Hernando and Sarasota School Districts require volunteers who are unsupervised around students to be finger printed, and pay the fee. 

School district officials in Citrus County say they only fingerprint volunteer coaches and the district pays the fee. All other volunteers are supervised by school volunteers.

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