Ketchikan approves background checks for volunteer chaperones

The Lady Kings land in Ketchikan after a three-day trip to Sitka. (Photo courtesy KRBD)

The Lady Kings land in Ketchikan after a three-day trip to Sitka. (Photo courtesy KRBD)

Ketchikan High School students are travelers. They travel for sports, music, student government. Before now, volunteer chaperones did not have to go through any official screening before accompanying students on overnight trips. Starting this school year, that won’t be the case.

The Ketchikan School Board Wednesday night approved required background checks for volunteer chaperones on overnight school-sponsored trips. The policy recommendation came from the newly formed Student Safety Committee.

“I believe in having the safest environment for our students as we can and if this is just another tool for that, I’m in favor of it,” Board member Ralph Beardsworth said.

The entire board agreed that student safety is the main priority. But there were some questions.

“I’d like to know how we’re paying for it,” said Board member Colleen Scanlon.  “And if it ain’t broke why change it? We’ve been doing school sponsored trips for a hundred years and have not required background checks and now all of a sudden we are?”

Superintendent Robert Boyle said the details of exactly how much the background checks will cost and what funds the district will use to pay for them are not certain. He said most of the chaperones on students trips are school employees, who have already gone through background checks. He guessed there might be around 30 or 40 volunteer chaperones each year who would need to be screened.

“The cost of the security check ranges to about $100 up to in the hundreds of dollars,” school district HR manager Rick Rafter said. “It all depends on how many last names they’ve had and how many places they’ve lived.”

One other question Scanlon posed: will background checks make it more difficult to get volunteers to chaperone school trips?

“If somebody doesn’t want to go on a trip because they’re worried or don’t want to take a background check, I don’t want that person traveling with at least my kid,” Timmerman said.

The rest of the Board agreed in the end. They unanimously voted to accept the policy update and decided to not bring it up for a second reading.

For more on the rest of the school board meeting go to KRBD.