CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — A policy in Carmel Clay Schools will force parents and grandparents to pay for a background check to even eat lunch with their child.
Some say the measure is too extreme. Others say it’s an appropriate move to make kids safer.
News 8 asked about this on Facebook and received an overwhelming number of responses, including more than 3,500 votes in just a few hours.
Many think it’s a great idea, but some worry it will shut out some great influences.
Effective immediately, all volunteers, and even those who just want to eat lunch with their child in a Carmel school, must pay for their own background check. It costs $13.95 and is good for three years.
“Ultimately, it’s for the good,” said Lindsay Pearce, who is a parent of two.
“I’m good with that,” adds Cindy McKinney, who has several grandchildren in Carmel schools.
The old policy had stated a background check for volunteers was needed only every 5 years and it wasn’t necessary for lunchtime guests.
“It stinks for a lot of families who all of a sudden spontaneously have someone but unfortunately, it’s the world we live in,” said Stacy Barry, who is a parent of two.
But not everyone thinks the new policy is the best way to go about school safety.
“It sounds extreme to me,” said Mike Weiner.
Weiner is married to a teacher in another district and father to a pair of recent Carmel grads.
“I don’t feel like I should really have to pay to walk in school to see my own children, especially in a public school,” he said.
Several people commented on Facebook with views similar to Weiner’s.
Lora Shanahan said “It’s too harsh. I can see it for volunteers who work in the classroom, but no parent should have to do this just to eat lunch with their kid.”
Patricia Shrock said she has a background check to volunteer in her great-granddaughter’s classroom. But to have lunch…that seems extreme.”
Even those like Pearce, who support the idea, worry that grandparents or relatives who live far away may not understand or be frustrated, especially by the cost.
“They can take them out to dinner for that,” she said. “Fourteen dollars would be discouraging.”
Other parents say there’s been confusion in the past with different schools having different policies so they are glad for a common policy, even if it means planning ahead.
“I think that’s a minimal cost to someone to ensure the safety of our children,” McKinney said.
“In the end, I think it’s for the kid’s safety,” adds Barry.
Other school districts handle this in a wide variety of ways.
Hamilton Southeastern has a policy similar to the one in Carmel.
But in IPS and Washington Township, no background check is needed. Visitors must sign in and get a pass or escort, but could then eat lunch with a child.
In Noblesville, parents can come to supervised events like lunch or a classroom party with a cost-free limited background check, but for events like field trips where parents might be overseeing students without supervision from school staff, a background check is required at the parent’s cost.
According to the IPS website, parents can waive a check of criminal history if there is not “sustained direct contact” with students. Any background check is done at the district’s expense.
Washington Township released this statement:
“Safety is our top priority, and the school office must know the identity and business of all visitors to the building. Upon entering one of our buildings, visitors MUST stop at the office, show proper identification, sign the register, and obtain a pass or an escort before proceeding to any area of the building. Visitors must also sign out upon leaving the building. Parents who would like to schedule a conference with their child’s teacher or to visit the classroom may do so by contacting the teacher and requesting an appointment. Parents or grandparents coming for lunch with a student would need to follow these same procedures.”
An earlier version of this article stated that a background check was not required to attend lunch or classroom parties in Noblesville.