Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Volunteer Fingerprinting

Volunteering in the Tanque Verde Unified School District isn’t as simple as it used to be. For the past ten years, I’ve held volunteer roles ranging from kindergarten “Mom Helper,” to reading instructor, to field day obstacle course director, to volleyball coach and soccer coach.  All I ever had to do was show up, sign-in, put a Volunteer lanyard around my neck and make my way to the kids.

This year, however, my desire to volunteer required six pages of paperwork, including my professional resume, four references, a notarized criminal investigation release and . . . fingerprinting.

This additional screening for persons coming in contact with district children may or may not be because of last June’s arrest of the district’s superintendent, Tom Rogers. The target of an FBI investigation since January, 2009, he was indicted on suspicion of engaging in sexual acts with a juvenile boy.

Rogers, hired as the Superintendent in April, 2007, also served as associate principal at Emily Gray Junior High and taught a seventh grade class. I had met and conversed with him many times, and my husband served with him on the calendar committee. Never did we suspect him capable of this type of criminal behavior. But how can one tell?

Currently, Rogers remains in Federal custody and his trial is scheduled to begin December 1. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

Rogers’ arrest has had an enormous impact on the community. Several are outraged that the investigation had been underway since January, and yet the Board of Supervisors wasn’t notified, and his arrest didn’t occur until June. Clearly the authorities needed concrete evidence against him prior to making an arrest. Most of us, I think, are overcome with the creepiness of all of it and have learned the need to place extra scrutiny on candidates applying for positions to have influence over our children.

Even volunteer volleyball coaches.

This year, the junior high school volleyball teams clearly needed some help. Coaches were not in place for either the tryout/placement procedure or the first game. Because of this, they didn’t cut any of the girls who came out for the teams and the result has been a gym-load of players eager to learn and play the game.

My seventh grade daughter is one of them.

So, the minute I returned to Tucson, I threw my ball in the court. I’ve been playing and/or coaching volleyball for about 40 years. I love the game and know most of the girls. And I like them, and want them to have a fabulous experience as members of their volleyball team. I’ve worked with them for two days and today, while they traveled to a far away game, I drove to the district office to get my fingerprints on file for them.

Even though my delightful fingerprint artist made the process fun, and she was as gentle as a manicurist, because this was my first fingerprinting experience, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a criminal. I had to sign a few more forms and she thanked me for being a volunteer. Then, she happily took a photo of my ink-stained fingers with my phone.

Thank God she didn’t ask me for a mug shot. It may have been a good fingerprint day, but it was definitely a bad hair day.

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