Friday, December 27, 2013

Volunteering at school

At the beginning of this year my little girl started kindergarten <3
She's a happy, spunky, helpful and responsible kind of kid.

We went to meet the teacher, had orientation, and signed up to volunteer. Looking over the list, I saw we had several "helper moms" but no-one had signed up for room mom.  I'm an adventurous and creative sort, so I figured Why not? If nobody else wants to, I certainly can. I'm a stay at home mom and I have the time and energy to do it.

Well, here's why not.  Remember when you were 22 and hung out with bad people and drank too much and made stupid choices while you were drunk and got arrested along with 3 other people and slapped with a felony drug traffiking charge and spent a year in county jail? That's why not.

Oh yeah.....while riding the waves of self-improvement and family life I had given no thought to the ghosts of my past haunting me in this way.  That certainly throws a monkey wrench into things.

I've had people ask me why I would want to volunteer to help out for people that make me feel unwelcome. Well, first off, the actual people I am helping at the schools are super nice. I am very upfront, as I find it easier to explain why I can't help for something than to sit while they are asking for help and have them think I don't care, because I do. It is the people at the county office who denied my application because they don't think I'm of "good moral character" because of something from eleven years ago.

I was essentially raised by wolves. It is a wonder I survived my childhood. My mother was 17 when I was born and when I was with her I often took care of myself (for as long as I can remember) I remember her sleeping a lot, and she didn't take much interest in my school, except to make sure I was still pulling straight A's in my all gifted classes with no guidance from her.  I have not one memory of her volunteering in my class or even contributing to a party or event.  I spent a few years with my grandma and she showed me how it feels when there is someone who cares to be involved. I treasure that time in my life and my goal is to make sure my kids can feel how loving and secure that feels when someone cares to donate their time to something important to you.

For this reason, I am a very involved and dedicated mom. Even after being denied as a county volunteer, I volunteer many hours helping to the elementary school with the things I am allowed to help with. I pretty much sign up for everything and let them say no where I can't help. At first I think it was hard for the receptionist to tell me no, but I was always happy and nice about it. I told her I understand when they have to say no, as long as they understand I have to keep asking :)

I have now asked the county to let me volunteer a total of four times, and been denied four times. I am told that my particular charge renders me unable to volunteer ever for as long as I live.
I am not a violent or sex offender, my crime did not involve any children (other than myself, an overgrown kidult at the time).  I am not required to register with the county and I am not required to refrain from being in the presence of children. My arrest was in 2002 and I finished probation in 2007.

Volunteers should NOT be held to the same standard as teachers. I'm not a teacher, and I wouldn't be teaching. The teacher would always be present. But, if we want to play that game, I found a state statute listing the criteria for granting an exemption for disqualification of employment. The first item on that lists says that the department head (I am guessing the superintendent) can grant the exemption for felony cases where more than 3 years have passed since the applicant finished probation. But the county policy has nothing like this in place for people like me.

And then it occurred to me there might be more great parents out there that can't volunteer because of their past. And I imagine most of them roll over and give up after that first or second denial.
But I have 12 1/2 more years of my daughter's education, and I can't stand the thought of watching from the sidelines when such a small percent of parents are actually showing up to volunteer.

So for my next trick, I plan to present to the school board during the public forum part of their meeting. I will have 3 minutes to speak (and I have my speech down to 3 minutes and 20 seconds, so just a little more editing to go!) and present my case. 
I plan to ask for exemption for myself, as well as the creation of a part-time dividend position (currently unavailable) in accordance with the state policy and statutes that I found, to make it easier for other parents like myself to still participate in their child's educational community,

Stay tuned, this could get interesting!


  1. That school board doesn't know who they're dealing with!

    Very courageous, my friend.