The school year is only a few weeks old, but the parents at Crocker Highlands Elementary have already collectively spent $8,400 to help out at the school. The money will pay for fingerprinting 110 parental volunteers. According to Ray McFadden, a parent at Crocker Highlands, who has refused to give his fingerprints, the school’s principal is enforcing a vague and ill-defined three-year-old directive from Oakland Unified School District.
Mr. McFadden is resisting for privacy reasons. He doesn’t want to give his fingerprints to a government agency without knowing where they will go, and what they will be used for. While a parent’s first reaction might be to say, “Better no volunteers at my kid’s school, than one pedophile,” the questions raised by Mr. McFadden’s dissidence betray the Bushian dodge in that response.
Sending fingerprints to the Department of Justice (if that is where they are going) doesn’t guarantee that child molesters will be weeded from the ranks of volunteers. And, as Mr. McFadden says, doesn’t the state attorney general already maintain a free, public database of convicted sex offenders? If the fingerprints reveal that Emma’s mommy served time for a string of Kansas bank robberies in the 80’s before marrying a lawyer and moving to Trestle Glen, would she barred from field trips?
While the $75 charge for fingerprinting is hard on some parents at Crocker Highlands, it’s not a burden for the majority. That’s not the case at every school in Oakland. Santa Fe Elementary School in North Oakland, for example, raised only around $3,000 from parents last year.
And the rule being applied at Crocker this year is not in force everywhere in OUSD. That could be because no one seems to know exactly what the state education code and OUSD policy require in terms of background checks for volunteers. If the school district does get around to clarifying its position, it should exempt parents from having to give fingerprints before volunteering at their child’s school.