So what is a volunteer?
What seems to be a simple question is creating significant confusion for Warren County School District officials as they seek to bring their volunteer policy into compliance with Pennsylvania statutes.
Director of Administrative Support Services Amy Stewart informed the school board's Personnel, Athletics and Co-Curricular Committee on Monday that the administration is reviewing the policy but a distinction is likely needed between volunteers who are in the classroom and not alone with students versus those who will spend time alone with students, such as chaperones on field trips.
"In order to meet the letter of the law," Stewart said clearances including criminal, child abuse and fingerprinting as well as a tuberculosis test would be required and are "all things that would cost people dollars to do."
State regulation does not offer clear direction in this area.
"State law only requires background check reports for volunteers in charter schools," a summary on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website said. "State law does not require background checks for volunteers in other public and private schools. However, individual school entities are permitted to adopt policies that go beyond the scope of the law.
"Many school entities enforce policies that require background check reports for their volunteers."
Board President Arthur Stewart said the school district "looked at this 15 years ago. I'm pleased to tell you that we came up with no good answer 15 years ago."
"The day and age we live in, it's the right thing to do," Amy Stewart said, adding, "The hoops that people have to go through are cumbersome."
In demonstrating that point, Arthur Stewart said the requirement of a TB test has been in the Pennsylvania code since 1946.
"This is probably the most debated topic, what to do with volunteers," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said. Citing the recent verdict in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, he added, "In today's world...this is just one level of protection that could be put out for our kids."
But board member Tom Knapp pointed out, "I'm sure he (Sandusky) was probably cleared on everything you could get clearance on."
"How do you protect yourself?" he asked.
"What are people required to do today?" Donna Zariczny, board vice president, asked.
Amy Stewart indicated that current policy is "not consistent between athletics and the district."
To volunteer for the district, "Basically, you're signing off indicating you have not been convicted of any of these things," she explained, indicating further than a firm number of volunteers can't really be calculated because "some people come and help out in a pinch."
To volunteer with an athletics program, all three clearances are required.
Board member John Grant asked whether the definition of volunteer could be split between the "occasional volunteer" and "those who would work with students alone."
"I don't think we need to get nit-picky on the occasional parent who wants to chaperone," he added. "I don't think it's reasonable to go that far."
"It's going to come down to our definition of a volunteer," Amy Stewart noted.
"Responsibility...did we do reasonable and prudent efforts to protect the kids?" Grant asked. "Up front, before something goes bad, we should be able to demonstrate to people that we made an effort."
Arthur Stewart agreed with Grant's position, splitting the definition of volunteer.
"If the solicitor would get on board with John's (Grant) program, I would fully support that," he said. "If we could draw a line for those who are most likely to be one on one with a student, those who are in frequent contact."
"It's not as easy as saying that all people need to have clearances," Hufnagel said.
He explained that clearances are valid for one year but questioned whether that meant one calendar year, one year from the last day of volunteer work or some other date.
"I think it is something we should take a look at and then do our due diligence on," he added.
To volunteer with the school district currently, one must complete a "Volunteer Application Form."
Current policy indicates that "Volunteers may come from all backgrounds and all age groups and may include any persons willing to give their time...Volunteers may be involved in virtually every facet of the operation of the school district, working with students on a one-on-one basis or performing tasks not involving students."
While district policy will not allow volunteers to transport students, "Duties may involve services to libraries, classrooms, athletic events, music programs, school plays, or pre-kindergarten programs or assisting on field trips and similar activities," the policy says.