Background check request irks school leaders

Posted at 10:53 PM, Dec 05, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-06 11:36:10-05

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - Richmond's newly elected school board member Kristen Larson said she was surprised when the school district asked her to fill out a form to authorize a fingerprint background check.

“Nothing has been presented to me showing this is procedure," Larson said. "We are elected officials, we are not employees of Richmond Public Schools.”

Larson said a basic check was conducted by the State Board of Elections when she decided to run for office. She said that check cleared her to hold the position.

This request was just as surprising to re-elected school board member Kim Gray. Gray said the outgoing board was never asked to submit to a background check by the school system.

Gray said she does not understand why the school district wants this information now.

“I take issue with the superintendent asking of us something that's not our policy," Gray said. "That's not in the state code and she [Richmond superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon] doesn't have the authority to ask that of us. We are not her employees.”

In a statement, Richmond Public Schools spokesperson, Felicia Cosby said:

“Incoming RPS School Board members received a standard human resources packet for individuals who receive financial compensation from the district. Although fingerprinting and background checks are standard, precautionary requirements for all RPS employees and others like volunteers and coaches who come in regular contact with students, it is left up to the discretion of the incoming board members if they want to submit to such requirements. Allowing board members to participate in the same process as all RPS employees and others like volunteers and coaches who are in direct contact with students is not an uncommon practice in RPS and other school divisions. RPS board members have submitted fingerprints for standard background checks in the past.”

However, Larson said she simply wanted to know why the district wanted this personal information since most board work is administrative and takes place away from schools.

Larson said when she visits a school, she'll be in and out like a typical volunteer who simply signs in at the front office.

“We're not teaching classes, we're not driving buses,” Larson said.

In an email to CBS 6, Henrico County Schools spokesman Andy Jenks said Henrico does do background checks on school board members.

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