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Franklin Regional considers clearances requirement for board members

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Franklin Regional School Board members who plan to spend time in district schools soon could be required to obtain background checks.

On Monday, officials reviewed a proposal to require school board members to obtain a state child-abuse clearance and criminal-history checks from the state police and the FBI if they want to enter schools unsupervised.

“Without volunteers, we wouldn't be nearly the organization we are or the organization we hope to be,” Superintendent Jamie Piraino said. “The one big loophole is the people who are coming in, into our schools, into our offices, into our classrooms, being around kids; our biggest group of volunteers are our board members, who develop community partnerships.”

In June 2012, the school board voted to require parent and community volunteers obtain criminal-history checks through state police and child-abuse clearances. Also, volunteers who are likely to have unsupervised contact with a student are required to obtain the FBI background check.

“It serves as a good example to the community in terms of those clearances,” Piraino said.

The ability of a board member with a criminal record to go into schools unsupervised would be restricted, Piraino said. But that wouldn't stop someone from serving on the board, Solicitor Lynne Finnerty said.

“There are other laws that govern that,” Finnerty said. “State law can not be trumped by your policy.”

In Pennsylvania, school board members are not required to obtain any security clearances to serve, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Individual districts, however, can require the clearances or background checks for board members who visit district classrooms.

Board member Dennis Pavlik suggested that the district absorb the cost for checks for all volunteers. That would be a burdensome cost to the district, board President Herb Yingling said. The district has a “large number” of volunteers, Yingling said. It costs $58 for a person to obtain all three clearances.

The board is slated vote on a first approval to the proposal later this month. If approved, the changes would be enacted as early as October, just weeks before the November election. Four school board seats are contested in that race.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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