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Under Act 15 of 2015 (the Act), which amends the
provisions of the Child Protective Services Law, volunteers who are
responsible for the child’s welfare or who have “direct volunteer
contact” with children at a school— meaning the care, supervision,
guidance, or control of children and routine interaction with children
will be required to have background checks. The Act clarifies that
“routine interaction” means “regular and repeated contact that is
integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities.”
PDE’s view is that mere visitors are not normally required to obtain
background checks to the extent that such visitors are not responsible
for a child’s welfare or are visiting the school irregularly and not
providing for the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children.
Some examples of situations where such visitors normally would not be
required to have background checks would include but are not limited
to: Back-to -School nights, parent/teacher conferences, school
assemblies, school concerts, assisting with school birthday parties,
parent guest readers, chaperones for field trips and dances (so long as
not routine or responsible for the child’s welfare), Halloween parades,
collecting tickets to sporting events, working concession stands,
participating in “Career Day,” Etc. In this capacity, school visitors
do not need the clearances. By contrast, persons who are responsible
for the child’s welfare or who wish to visit the school regularly to
serve as volunteers and to provide for the care, supervision, guidance
or control of children would be required to have background checks.
Some examples of persons needing background checks would include but
not be limited to regular classroom volunteer assistants, recess and
library volunteers, and volunteer coaches/club advisors.
Volunteers must obtain the following certifications:
A fingerprint based federal criminal history (Federal Bureau of
Investigation) submitted through the Pennsylvania State Police or its
authorized agent is NOT required as long as:
The position the volunteer is applying for is an unpaid position; AND
The volunteer has been a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the entirety of the previous10 years.
Volunteers who are not required to obtain the FBI certification because
they are applying for an unpaid position and have been a continuous
resident of Pennsylvania for the past 10 years must swear or affirm in
writing that they are not disqualified from service based upon a
conviction of an offense under §6344.
DHS Form for Volunteers
If a volunteer has not been a resident of Pennsylvania for the
previous 10 years but obtained their FBI certification at any time
since establishing residency, they must provide a copy of the
certification to the person responsible for the selection of volunteers
and they are not required to obtain any additional FBI certifications.
If a volunteer has not been a resident of Pennsylvania for the
previous 10 years, and has not obtained their FBI certification, they
must obtain that certification.
Yes, any person who obtained their certifications
within the previous 60 months may serve in a volunteer capacity for any
program, activity, or service.
No. Child abuse history certifications and PSP
criminal history certifications obtained for volunteer purposes can
only be used for other volunteer activities. Child abuse history
certifications obtained for volunteer purposes will indicate that the
certification is to be used for volunteer purposes only.
Yes. The Department of Human Services reviews the
results of the FBI fingerprint record check and sends the applicant a
letter that indicates the result of the review and whether or not the
applicant is eligible for a position that involves direct contact with
children. The report will be on DHS letterhead and will be from the
Office of Children, Youth and Families.
The DHS notification will also include a copy of the applicant’s criminal history information except when no record exists.
DHS letters that indicate that there was no record can be accepted.
If an applicant presents a DHS letter that indicates any of the other
situations, school staff should review the criminal history
information to make a fitness determination as to whether the person
should be in a volunteer position that involves direct volunteer
contact with children.
Yes. The FBI has stated that it has no objection to
officials providing a copy of the applicant’s FBI criminal history
record to the applicant. PDE recommends that the school indicate on the
report that it is a copy provided by the school to the applicant.
If the program, activity or service is an internship,
externship, work-study, co-op or similar program, only an adult
applying for or holding a paid position with an employer that
participates in the internship, externship, work-study, co-op or similar
program with a school and whom the employer and the school identify as
the child's supervisor and the person responsible for the child's
welfare while the child participates in the program with the employer
is required to obtain the certifications, not all employees. The adult
identified as the person responsible for the child's welfare is
required to be in the immediate vicinity at regular intervals with the
child during the program. School districts often enter into written
understandings with those entities hosting internships, externships,
work study, co-ops or similar programs. In addition to identifying the
supervisor the understanding may establish the terms of the supervision
of the students in the program.
“Immediate vicinity” is defined as an area in which an
individual is physically present with a child and can see, hear,
direct, and assess the activities of the child.
PDE recommends that supervisors interpret “regular
intervals” with the safety of children as the paramount consideration
and suggests that “regular intervals” should mean at least once daily
and not less than every four hours.
A co-op that is operated by a home school
organization will need background clearances of instructors. Informal
co-ops organized by a group of parents will not require background
checks for the instructors.
The instruction/assistance to home school students being provided by
or through an organized home school association is considered a
program offered by a private organization that is providing an
enrichment or educational program and under the CPSL the individuals
who will be having direct contact with home school students will need
Since home schooling programs are not sponsored by the school
districts, it is PDE’s position that informal home school co-ops
created by parents are not considered to be private organizations and
thus do not need clearances.
PDE recommends that school districts align their local
policies concerning background checks for volunteers with the
clarified provisions of the CPSL.
Please contact PDE’s School Services Office at 717-783-3750 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org