Mid-South grandmother upset about school system's background checks

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC-TV) - A Mid-South grandmother wants to take her grand-daughter on a field trip, but to do that she has to under go a background check, and she wants to know why.

Vickie Lightsey's two grandchildren are students in the DeSoto County School System.  According to Lightsey, their school recently sent a note home informing her of an upcoming field trip.

"I have two children at this school and I have been on numerous field trips and never ever had to do anything," she said.

Now, in order to serve as a chaperone, Lightsey must pass a background check, as well as pay a $35 processing fee - something she's never had to do before.

"If something has happened, maybe they need to cut the field trips our for the safety of the children," she said.

DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Milton Kuykendall says the background check is about safety, and nothing has recently happened to prompt a change in policy.

"We've had this policy, basically, about five years," he said.

Kuykendall says any volunteer or chaperone who may end up in contact with students outside the direct supervision of a school system employee must have a background check.  The school system takes fingerprints and sends them through state and federal databases to check volunteers, just as they do employees.

According to Kuykendall, the policy is written to relieve the district's liability and to insure the safety of students.

"We're going to make sure that people who are around our kids are people who are not child predators," he said.

Kuykendall said each DeSoto County school gets 10 free background checks.  Each one after that cost $35 to run.  The school system passes along that cost to the person the check is being performed on.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.