Skip To ContentSkip To Content

    Every year over 20,000 family and community member volunteers serve in SPS schools. SPS volunteer background check requirements are shaped by:

    • SPS risk management and our volunteer insurance policy with the Washington Schools Risk Management Pool,
    • RCW 43.43.830 - Background checks—Access to children or vulnerable persons

    and are reflected in Policy No. 5005 “Unsupervised volunteers screening”

     

    Keeping Students Safe

    SPS is committed to providing students with a safe educational environment. We are also required by law to complete criminal background check for every volunteer. Volunteer applicants must be screened using an approved criminal background check methods prior to beginning service. 

     

    Background Check Levels

    We utilize two background check levels: 

    A. State background check

    If you have lived in Washington State for the past three (3) years, we will use the Washington State Patrol’s database known as WATCH to run your background check (no action is needed on your end). Normally, those background checks cost $11 each, however Washington State makes them available to schools (and non-profits) at no charge. 

    B. National background check

    The following circumstances require a one-time, $21 national background check:

    • Volunteer applicant has lived in the U.S. for the past three (3) years, including in states outside Washington*.
    • Volunteer will regularly work with students while unsupervised (regardless of how long the volunteer has resided in Washington State). This applies to school and remote/virtual volunteers. 
    • All sports volunteer applicants**.
    • Overnight field trip chaperones if the field trip is longer than 3 days.
    • Volunteer applicant resides in another state (national background check required every two years) *
    • Volunteers who reside in another state must complete a new national background check every two years. 

    ** Individual schools coordinate and screen applications for all sports that are not handled by SPS Athletics, including club sports: HS Ultimate Frisbee, HS Cheer, HS Lacrosse, Dance, and Water polo. Athletic sports are all disciplines coordinated by the SPS Athletics Department;volunteers must apply through that department (do not use the regular SPS Volunteer Application process).

    National background check options

    1. SPS has partnered with Sterling Volunteers (formerly Verified Volunteers) to offer volunteer applicants affordable, secure and convenient background checks online ($21). If in the past you resided in the State of New York, Sterling Volunteers transaction total will include an extra $95 charge required by that jurisdiction. You will be able to cancel the order and consider the following alternative.
    2. For former residents of New York State and applicants who prefer to not complete their national background check online, we have fingerprinting services available at the John Stanford Center - cost for this service is approximately $46;prior appointment is required; results are available two weeks after the appointment. Email volunteer@seattleschools.org for instructions.

    How to purchase an online Sterling Volunteers background check

    • Log into the SPS volunteer portal
    • Click "EDIT PROFILE" to access your volunteer application
    • Go to a section titled "Determining Your Background Check" and select option "2. I have lived in Washington State for the past 3 years but would like to purchase a national background check."
    • Save the application at the bottom of the page.
    • An email from our national background check vendor Sterling Volunteers will arrive in your inbox shortly - check your "junk/spam/bulk" folder if you can't locate it.
    • Follow included instructions. Sterling Volunteers will notify you as soon as your background check is complete (usually 1-2 days). 

    C. Volunteers who recently returned to or arrived in the U.S.

    If you lived abroad in the past three (3) years and have a social security number, you will need to purchase a one-time international background check ($31 fee) instead of the national background check. 

    How to purchase your international background check

    • Visit http://bit.ly/vv4sps-global to begin your online order - you may be prompted to enter a special code - it is ye427g5
    • Use your current U.S. address in the web form (no addresses outside of U.S.).
    • No social security number? Email volunteer@seattleschools.org for assistance.
    • International background checks can be substituted by a recent (two years) U.S. Embassy-issued visa type J, F, green card, etc. Tourist visas do not qualify. 

    Why is there a fee for background checks?

    Unfortunately, WATCH does not provide criminal records from other states, and unlike Washington State, the federal government does not provide schools with free screening tools. SPS selected an online vendor to offer affordable national screens for volunteers. 

    • A man convicted of child abuse in Oregon applies to tutor SPS students at Cascade Elementary School.
    • Mom of a 4th grader volunteers as a field trip driver. Two years ago, she was convicted of a DUI in California.

    Both volunteer applicants would easily pass the WATCH background check.

     

    Remote volunteering during COVID and the cost of background checks

    COVID and resulting school closures changed volunteer engagement pathways dramatically. One unexpected impact on our program is a much greater need for volunteers to complete the national level background check required for supporting students without staff supervision.

    In previous years, few volunteers needed a national background check because volunteers supported students in one classroom or library space with the teacher present and able to monitor all interactions. Unfortunately, teacher supervision during online tutoring and in break-out rooms is not practical or in most cases not possible. Additionally, compared to volunteering in a school building, remote volunteering with students presents higher risks of exploitation, abuse, or exposure to explicit or violent materials. 

    SPS Volunteer Services Program Administrator is actively seeking grant/private donations to create a pool of background check funds for low income families and will update this website if such funds become available. In the meantime, please review the following section for school-sponsored background checks.

    In the meantime, two approved Category A volunteers can be paired to support students in break-out rooms or tutor students in MS Team meetings set up between the students and volunteers by the teacher. Also, a number of schools have opted to set aside some funds for their  volunteer background check expenses. See below for more information. 

     

    Background check affordability

    Every parent or caretaker should have the opportunity to participate in their student’s education.

    • Schools can cover background check fees for low-income families using operating or program budgets, request PTA assistance or seek grant/private funds for this purpose. Field trip related background check fees can be covered through the trip budget.
    • If the background check fee is causing financial hardship for you, please contact your school office (see contact list here) and ask if they set a budget for volunteer background checks. If so, they can contact the Volunteer Services Program Administrator to request a special link for your background check. 

    Confidentiality

    Volunteer applications and background checks are confidential. Each school principal designates a volunteer program liaison to process them.

     

    Thank you for helping us create a safe educational environment!


    https://www.seattleschools.org/volbackgroundcheck