Pelham City BOE looking at revising background check policy

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PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Parents who have children attending Pelham City Schools could find out about changes to the controversial background check policy.

Pelham Board of Education President Rick Rhoades says the board hasn’t made any decisions about the policy just yet. Monday’s meeting is an opportunity for parents to hear what options are on the table to address the background check policy.

As it stands right now, parents who want to eat lunch with their child at school have to first pay for and pass a background check. That background check costs $15.

Some people have criticized the policy saying that it discriminates against those who do not have social security numbers, including undocumented immigrants who have children attending a school in Pelham.

Others say the fee can put a strain on low-income families.

The state president of the Alabama Family Rights Association sent a letter to the Pelham City BOE saying the background check policy tells parents they’re dangerous to their own kids and should be removed immediately.

Kenneth Paschal, with the AFRA, says the solution is simple, he thinks the school system should go back to its original policy.

“Their situation with parents going on field trips, chaperones, overnight activities, background checks that’s understandable because those parents are temporary to assume the roles of teachers and teachers requirements is to have a background check,” said Paschal.

There were some whispers of a new system being implemented in place of the policy. That system is called Raptor. It can be used to see if a visitor is on the national sex offender registry. Rhoades spoke to CBS42 over the phone, he says the school board is looking not only into Raptor, but several other systems.

After Monday night’s meeting, the board will ask for community feedback. The board wants emails with questions, concerns and suggestions about the policy and then will go from there. This step could be a two week to a month-long process.

Rhoades says right now it’s too early to decide when a newly revised policy would go into effect.

Paschal says mistakes were made, but the school board is doing its job of coming to the table, realizing there’s an issue and then addressing it.

“I think many of the parents felt that there was a wall, there was no avenue to communicate to the school so that’s a plus, the school board has made a concentrated effort to reach out to the parents,” said Paschal.

The school board is looking at revising the policy and plans on discussing options at a public work session Monday night at 4:30 p.m. at Pelham Oaks Elementary.

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