Legal Question Of The Week - October 4, 2012

By Attorney Thomas B. Mooney, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

The "Legal Question of the Week" is a regular feature of the CAS Weekly NewsBlast. We invite readers to submit short, law-related questions of practical concern to school administrators. Each week, we will select a question and publish an answer. While these answers cannot be considered formal legal advice, they may be of help to you and your colleagues. We may edit your questions, and we will not identify the authors. Please submit your questions to:

Dear Legal Mailbag:

When I was talking to a colleague in a neighboring town, I was shocked to hear him mention fingerprinting volunteers. I have been an administrator for over ten years, and I have had my fair share of experience with volunteers. But I have never heard of volunteers being fingerprinted. I canít imagine telling a room mother that she must submit to fingerprinting. However, by the way my colleague was talking, I got the impression that I should be doing this. What is the story?

I Hope I Donít Have To

Dear Hope:

As you know, all employees must submit to fingerprinting before they can be hired. Indeed, as of July 1, 2012, as part of the hiring process you must now check as to whether both certified and non-certified staff members are on the DCF child abuse and neglect registry. However, there is no similar requirement for volunteers. Accordingly, we have to use common sense in deciding whether and when to fingerprint volunteers. A good rule of thumb is that volunteers who have unsupervised access to students should be fingerprinted because with such access there is potential risk. Not to do so might be considered unreasonable and subject the district to liability if an assault were to occur. Conversely, when a volunteer is simply helping out while students are otherwise under the supervision of a teacher or other school employee, fingerprinting that volunteer would likely be considered unnecessary and intrusive.