Rhode Island schools are facing yet another controversy. This time the controversy includes a mother and her desire to volunteer at the school her daughter attends. Sounds like a great opportunity for the school to increase the level of parent involvement right? Wrong.
The controversy in this case is that the mother looking to volunteer is also a convicted felon. Her felony was a drug based offense and happened years before her daughter was born. The mother in this case, Jessica Gianfrocco wants to help out with her daughter’s kindergarten class.
The school denying Ms. Gianfrocco is Arlington Elementary School in Cranston, RI. The denial to allow her to volunteer came after a standard background check (required of all prospective volunteers) brought up the conviction and automatically disqualified her from helping. The school claims that it is standard procedure and mandated by state law. The ACLU and the mother in this case claim that she is being punished for a crime long ago.
While all of us can appreciate the desire to protect our children and most of us can also appreciate that generally that means that they are not exposed to convicted felons, this case seems a bit different to me. Two things in my mind should be looked upon when making a decision like this.
1) What type of crime was committed? Was it violent or sexual in nature?
2) How long ago was the crime and has the person looking to volunteer recovered and have they been in any trouble since?
In this case the crime was not violent or sexual in nature or against children in anyway. Given that the conviction occurred long before Gianfrocco had her daughter and that the crime did not fall into a category of concern, it seems that there should be exceptions.
Gianfrocco’s daughter after all deserves to have her mother present and volunteering if that is what she wants to do. For her daughter’s sake, the school system needs to revisit the case and decide these types of requests on a case-by-case basis and not based on some standardized rule that ends up being unfair to quite a few.