Free labour

“Trustees still deadlocked on requiring police checks for volunteers” was a headline that caught our eye a few weeks back. 

Our initial question was why the deadlock? This can’t be that hard a decision.

Apart from feeding the nonsense theory that some might feel uncomfortable attending a police station, the hesitancy boils down to making it more difficult for adults to volunteer and having free help.

As most parents can attest, volunteering is central to students attending off-site activities or larger events within a school that need a lift. Expecting a teacher to solely round up a gaggle of students on a field trip is neither safe, nor fair. 

Parents, happy to spend time with their kids will often take a day off to help out and some take that a step further, becoming heavily involved in school activities as a form of giving back to their community. Those parents are to be commended.

As it currently stands, the Guelph Police Service (for Guelph residents) and OPP (for Wellington residents) offer volunteer checks, online and in the case of the OPP it is free. Apart from a little inconvenience it is a relatively painless process, but will take a bit of time. 

The downside to insisting on police checks for volunteers is every so often a parent can’t meet their commitment, forcing teachers to reach out for another parent to fill in. Under this policy, the fill-in parent would in all likelihood be unable to muster a check quick enough to be useful for that last-minute occasion. This is part of the conundrum for trustees against the policy who like accessing free labour.

Where there is a will there is a way and maybe there is a way to develop a pool of parents or retirees happy to help out. Perhaps a quarterly drive could be held to drum up volunteer candidates during the school year. Many of the misgivings for non-supporters of this policy would be moot. 

Despite one trustee’s assertion that a vulnerable sector check (VSC) is merely a snapshot in time, the VSC is about the only tool available to identify known risk. This third-party report saves a principal or teacher harmless when undertaken and avoids the finger-pointing that would occur if a known problem was left uncovered and something tragic happened.

And that perhaps brings us to the real crux of the issue: the students.

This isn’t about the school board, the union, nor teachers, nor parents, let alone politicians – it’s about kids and the need to protect their best interests. 

All a person has to do is open the newspaper, catch the news or have been breathing the past few decades to understand the trauma that comes about from a carefree little kid being robbed of their innocence. It is maddening in the extreme.

Free labour hardly seems a compensatory offset to the risk involved should one needless incident occur.