• Sexual Assault and Misconduct
  • Report
  • K-12

Prevent Sexual Abuse by Improving Volunteer Management

Melanie Bennett, Esq.
April 2021

Why Read This

United Educators’ (UE’s) claims experience shows that sexual abuse of children is one of the most severe risks K-12 schools face — a molestation claim can easily reach six figures, and UE has handled cases costing more than $10 million. Effects of sexual abuse also can have devastating consequences for victims, schools, and communities.

Good risk management practices include closely examining the background and suitability of all adults working with children — including volunteers and employees.

But while schools are using stronger employee screening methods, including background checks, to decrease the risk of sexual abuse of students by employees, they aren’t paying as much attention to selecting, supervising, and training volunteers who work closely with children. That’s troublesome because as budgets tighten, schools increasingly rely on volunteers to provide services such as tutoring, monitoring, and chaperoning at little or no financial cost.

Key Takeaways

  • While an increasing number of schools rely on criminal background checks to make decisions about volunteers, fewer than 5% of these investigations turn up adverse information on applicants.
  • Using a formal application, reference checks and other background checks, and an interview with school staff in appropriate circumstances can offer your school greater insight into potential volunteers than if you solely rely on criminal background checks.
  • A completed volunteer application provides a snapshot of a potential volunteer and a safeguard if a claim involving the volunteer is brought against your school.

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