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A new law in Massachusetts requires criminal background checks on school volunteers. This comes months after Boston was exposed as the epicenter of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. The new law requires all volunteer--even parents on a field trip to the zoo--to be screened against names in the state's Criminal Offender Record Information system.

The new law came about after child abuse reports exploded. "We see what's happened with some of these kids with the clergy," state Rep. Reed V. Hillman was quoted as saying in a recent news story. "Pedophiles are apt to seek out opportunities for intimate contact with children." Hillman, a Sturbridge Republican, pushed for the law.

The state education department issued guidelines on how the law should be implemented. "If parent volunteers will be in a position to have unsupervised time with children, [the district] will have to conduct a check on them," says state education department spokeswoman Heidi Perlman. "There is not going to be any wiggle room on that."

Many districts already check for any criminal background on new employees and volunteers; the state provides the checks free to schools. What kinds of offenses preclude volunteering is up to each district, Perlman says. The Worcester district has long screened its employees and volunteers using a guide developed for community colleges. Most felonies, like assault and battery, call for mandatory exclusion, but other offenses may be allowed. "I generally disqualify the person but tell them they can come talk to me," says Anthony Ingrisano, assistant HR director. "Sometimes they can explain it."
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Title Annotation:Massachusetts law requires criminal check of volunteers
Author:Sausner, Rebecca
Publication:District Administration
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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