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Iowa City School District to require background checks for vendors

BY JORDYN REILAND | FEBRUARY 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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Vendors employed by the Iowa City School District will soon be required to comply with background checks and present full identification.

These rules, which School Board members recently developed, will require vendors to comply with the same background checks as faculty and volunteers when hired by the district. These checks will take place yearly and cost the business approximately $25 per person.

At the Feb. 21 School Board meeting, district parent Phil Hemingway said the checks are another way to ensure student safety.

"The action that was taken as far as background checks was light speed compared to how things have been in the past," Hemingway told board members.

School Board President Marla Swesey said any actions taken to provide additional safety for students and faculty is a step in the right direction.

"I think anything we can do to make sure our students and faculty are safe is a good thing," she said. "It's a good idea to be proactive."

Construction workers, landscaping, and contractors would be among the vendors required to comply with the background checks.

Board member Sarah Swisher said she agreed.

"I think the superintendent has started some wise checks, and I think it's the right move," she said. "We do background checks on volunteers and employees before they have an opportunity to interact with the children, and I think it's the right thing to do."

Superintendent Steve Murley said the changes will take effect through new contracts when contracts with current vendors expire.

Denise Schares, the superintendent of the Clear Creek/Amana School District, said her district has required background checks employees, vendors, and visitors for a number of years. The district pays $48 for each background check on district employees, she said.

"Anything that we can do to promote safety and well-being is something we should seriously consider," Schares said. "It's for the safety of the kids, so it's money well spent."

Officials from the Solon School District could not be reached for comment.

Parents have expressed one concern that under the new contract, vendors will not be required to wear IDs when on district property, only in their possession. Hemingway said he's concerned that may let unchecked workers slip by.

"It's not unreasonable for contractors to have IDs to display and check into offices [with] when they are working," Hemingway said.

As a former teacher, Swesey said she thinks the community's concerns are valid, and the board will look into discussing the requirement for vendors to wear the cards.

"I don't see there being a problem with it," she said.

But Murley said visitors will have the appropriate amount of identification on them at all times. Each year, district officials will provide vendors with new cards identifying they have gone through that year's background check.

"[The district] is going to provide [visitors] with an IDs each year, and we are also requiring the vendors to carry photo IDs as an employee of the vendor," he said.


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