Pelham City BOE discusses controversial background check policy

PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Pelham City Board of Education is looking at revising a controversial policy that would require parents to undergo and pay for a background check before they could eat lunch with their children at Pelham schools.

At its meeting on Monday night, the board heard from Dr. Scott Coefield, Superintendent of Pelham Schools, who said he’s had forums with parents to hear their concerns, among them the $15 cost, which could be oppressive for lower-income families, as well as the kinds of crimes that would render a parent ineligible to eat with their child.

“The second thing is to make sure the conspiracy that we’re trying to push out the Hispanic community out of our school is false, that we need to have more conversations with our Hispanic community,” he said.

Some have criticized the policy, saying that it discriminates against those who do not have social security numbers, including undocumented immigrants whose children are citizens in the school system.

“They don’t have to have social security numbers to do the background checks. There’s multiple ways to enter the data,” Coefield said.

Proponents of the background checks say it will ensure those who have past violent run-ins with the law, including those with sexual crimes or crimes against children, will not be able to come into the school system and pose a threat to students.

However, privacy advocates at the Eagle Forum of Alabama have also taken a stand against the policy.

“Parents have the right to custody, upbringing, and education of their child, and so the problem with this from a privacy standpoint is you have the government directly interfering in a private relationship between a child and a parent,” said Executive Director Deborah Love.

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