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10 Things You Need to Know about School Volunteer Background Checks

school volunteer background checks

1. The school background check process is mandated by the states. Each state has its own laws for the types of searches that school volunteers must undergo, how often those searches must be performed, and any fees that may be paid for by the government.

2. Many states require a National Criminal Database search and a National Sex Offender Search.

3. In addition to legal requirements, there could be contractual requirements for volunteers. Background checks may be required for volunteers in order to comply with insurance policies, facility usage, and funding groups.

4. Individual school districts can implement additional background screening requirements. For example, this Alabama school district requires background checks for parents who want to eat lunch with students. Other required searches depend on the type of interaction that the school volunteer would be having with the students. For example, if the volunteer is going to be driving students, then a driving record search should be conducted. But perhaps the district (or state law) determines that a background check is not necessary for someone volunteering under the direct supervision of another school employee with a background check. If not specified under state law, it is up to the district to determine what types of background check services should be required based on the prospective volunteer’s responsibilities. The school district must also decide what types of records and search results disqualify the volunteer’s application.

5. Most states allow public schools to access their criminal history records for volunteer background checks. (Note that private schools may not be granted the same level of access.) However, third-party screening providers, such as True Hire, have access to information from more than 600 million records across the thousands of county, state and federal jurisdictions throughout the United States. Third-party background checks companies are also able to search by social security number which is an advantage over school districts performing their own searches since name-based searches often result in false matches.

6. When using a third-party screening provider to obtain criminal history information, schools must be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which involves certain procedures, such as providing written notification that a background check will be performed and having the volunteer candidate give written permission for the background check. If a school conducts volunteer screening on their own using public records, there may be similar laws they must comply with. For instance, the National Child Protection Act (NCPA) requires the applicant’s permission for a record check.

7. Conducting only a sex offender search is not ideal. According to the Nonprofit Rick Management Center, “Some states limit the publicly accessible list to only the most serious of all sex offenders so failure to appear on these registries would not mean that the individual is not a sex offender.” Also, sex offender registries may not be accurate and up-to-date since many sex offenders fail to register in a timely manner, especially each time they relocate.

8. In some instances, volunteers may be subject to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws. For example, any unpaid intern working at a school may be protected by EEOC laws under certain circumstances.

9. Substance abuse screening requirements for school volunteers depends on state and local laws, or may be left up to the school district.

10. Even though school volunteer background checks may not be required by law in your state, it is the school district’s responsibility to keep students safe and earn the trust of parents, funding agencies, and the community.

Our recommended searches for school volunteers:

  • Social Security Trace
  • TrueCrim (National Criminal Database Search & National Sex Offender Search)
  • County Criminal Record Search
  • Substance Abuse Screening
  • Driving Record (optional)



Volunteer Background Checks: Giving Back without Giving Up on Privacy. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. September 23, 2016.

Frequently Ask Questions: Screening and Background Checking. Nonprofit Risk Management Center.

Federal EEO Laws:  When Interns May Be Employees. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. December 8, 2011.

With hundreds of volunteers, school districts scrambling to comply with background check law. The Morning Call. July 6, 2015.

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