A new state law set to take effect soon will require anyone who wants to volunteer at a school or school event to get a more extensive background check—and a more expensive one. On top of that, the volunteers may have to foot the bill.
“You can’t really put a price tag on people’s safety,” Melissa Lopez said. Parents understand it’s all about keeping kids safe, but now helping out with tutoring, working in the library, or chaperoning field trips will require a more rigorous and pricey background check.
The governor signed House Bill 431 into law following this year’s legislative session. While it will make it harder for criminals to have access to kids, it also may make it harder for the schools to find volunteers because of the cost.
Right now, a regular DPS background check runs $15. The new law requires $44 background check vetted by the FBI.
“Finger print-driven, and is a national background check,” said sponsor Rep. Linda Trujillo. The DPS version only looks at criminal history in New Mexico.
The question of who pays for those background checks will be left up to the school districts.
It’s doesn’t require the district to make the background check paid by the volunteer, but it doesn’t also require them to pay for it themselves,” said Trujillo.
Roswell Independent Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy says the additional cost may deter some.
“The idea of it’s great, but the funds of it are kind of hard for people to come up with, especially for volunteering. You’re not doing it for the money, so you may not have those funds available,” said Savanah Linares.
People who KRQE News 13 spoke with agree, but they say it’s money well spent.
“The more checking, the better. Because we’ve had incidents where they find out too late that someone hadn’t been checked out thoroughly,” said Mary Kay McCollum.