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D96 formalizes screening of adult volunteers

Computer software will check public databases for red flags

October 23rd, 2018 1:01 PM

By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Volunteers who work alone with children in the schools of Riverside District 96 will soon have to go undergo a slightly more formal review before they are signed on.

The district is purchasing a screening system called Raptor, which is already used at Riverside-Brookfield High School, to vet volunteers by using existing public databases of sex offenders or violent offenders.

Currently, volunteers who work with kids in District 96 not in the direct presence of a staff member submit their names, and the school principal or a school secretary check the name against the public databases.

The Raptor system will check the names and addresses of volunteers against the same databases.

"By using a system … we'll be able to do this in a more efficient way," said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye.

The Raptor system, which will cost the district under $2,000, comes with a scanner that can print out visitor tags with driver's license photos on them. Volunteers will have to present their driver's license or other state issued identification to be screened.

"It's a very visible tool," Ryan-Toye said. 

The new procedure will apply to volunteers who spend time alone with kids, such as people who chaperone students on field trips, who read to or work with students outside the presence of a teacher or help kids work on yearbooks.

"We want to continue to welcome all our volunteers," Ryan-Toye said. "We don't want this to feel like volunteers are being pushed away at all, but we want to make sure we are being proactive, that we're creating a deterrent and that we are always, always, always addressing student safety."

Ryan-Toye said that she had considered requiring volunteers who are alone with students to be fingerprinted and go through the same background check that new employees undergo, but she decided that the Raptor system would be a more cost-effective approach.

"[This] is still, I think, an enhancement from how we've been doing it," Ryan-Toye said. "I'll still have discretion where and when I might do fingerprinting."

District 96 has one adult volunteer, a soccer coach at Hauser Junior High School in Riverside, who has undergone a fingerprint-based background check. 

Ryan-Toye said if the district has more volunteer coaches in the future she anticipates requiring future volunteer athletic coaches to undergo fingerprint-based background checks.

The new system should be up and running in a month or so. 

"We're still working through some of the implementation details, and I'm going to be in touch with all of our parents about this as we get those ironed out," Ryan-Toye said.