Criminal background checks for all?
Lakeville task force considers school security measures
Criminal background checks may be required of parents before they are allowed to help with their child’s classroom party under a proposal Lakeville Area Schools Superintendent Lisa Snyder said she plans to soon recommend to the Lakeville School Board.
Snyder told the district’s volunteer Security Task Force at its Jan. 14 meeting the task force’s leadership team will recommend all volunteers undergo background checks before they are allowed to volunteer in Lakeville schools.
The district now only requires criminal checks for chaperones of overnight activities.
“I’m really concerned about that,” Snyder said, adding she would recommend the measure regardless of what the task force recommends to the board.
She said the process would be confidential, conducted by the Human Resources Department and include an appeals process for volunteers who are denied to be reconsidered.
Snyder’s recommendation was among many security measures discussed by about 20 task force members made up of parents, police, school staff and business members with diverse security-related backgrounds who are reviewing an array of potential safety improvement strategies and are expected to provide recommendations for the Lakeville School Board to consider within weeks.
Members electronically voted for various security options that included whether staff members with conceal carry licenses should be allowed to bring a gun to school, (no, 65 percent) and if the district should invite retired police officers to walk school hallways (yes, 71 percent).
Members did not approve of installing metal detectors at the main entrances of every school, but agreed more security cameras are needed in the high schools and middle schools.
If money were no object, the group generally approved of equipping Lakeville classrooms with panic buttons and adding buzzers to let visitors into school buildings.
Discussion also centered on prevention by improving mental health screening, staff training and services.
Suggestions included implementing school crisis teams, updating emergency plans and improving training coordination with police and school staff.
Surprise drills, although difficult administratively, were also advocated to better prepare teachers and emergency responders.
In an interview, School Board Chair Roz Peterson said school safety is “crucially important,” but cited some concerns about whether the district should conduct background checks on all district volunteers, the majority of which are parents.
“I’d want to make sure anything we do will accomplish the goal of keeping students safe without violating the rights of parents,” she said. “Obviously, this is uncharted territory for us, and we’re learning as we go. It’s important we stay very much inclusive and discuss this as a community.”