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    Please review to learn how SPS is keeping students safe and for instructions on completing your background check.

    Every year over 20,000 parents and community members volunteer to contribute to successes of SPS students. We value your donations of time and talent!

    Keeping Students Safe

    SPS is committed to providing students with a safe educational environment. SPS staff, contractors, volunteer and stipend coaches are screened using state and federal background checks. Until recently, the majority of non-athletic volunteer applicants were screened through the Washington State Patrol’s database known as WATCH.

    Volunteer Background Checks

    WATCH has been SPS’ reliable screening tool for years. Each Principal assigns a background checker who has confidential access to district’s WATCH account to screen every volunteer applicant.

    Unfortunately, WATCH does not provide criminal records from outside Washington. In our rapidly growing city, WATCH is no longer adequate for screening volunteers who serve vulnerable populations, including minors. A tutor convicted of child abuse in Oregon or a field trip driver with a recent DUI in California would both easily pass the WATCH background check.

    For these reasons, SPS updated our screening procedure in 2017 to include a U.S.-wide background check for volunteer applicants who are new to our state. Since the federal government does not provide a WATCH-like tool, we sought a commercial vendor to provide affordable online background check services, including screening against the national sex offender list, FBI crimes against children and violent offenders searches, and nationwide criminal scan and arrest records.

    • 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.

    Selecting Your Background Check 

    • If you have lived in Washington State for the past three years, SPS will run your background check for free via WATCH — the criminal history database provided by the state patrol.
    • Volunteers who do not meet this criterion complete a one-time U.S.-wide background check. If you completed this step last school year, you do not need to do so again. 

    There are two options for completing your national background check - both meet SPS volunteer program requirements:  

    • Verified Volunteers - an online U.S.-wide criminal background check vendor. This is an affordable ($21), faster, and more convenient screening service than fingerprinting. Please note that if you ever resided in the State of New York, you will notice extra charges on your bill ($65 or more) added by that jurisdiction and will be able to cancel your order. 
    • For former residents of New York State and applicants who prefer to complete their national background check in person rather than online, we have fingerprinting services available at the John Stanford Center. Cost for this service is approx. $45 and a prior appointment is required. 
    • If you have not lived in the United States for the past three years, do not purchase any of the above-mentioned services since they only cover the U.S. territory. Please contact your school for information. 

    National Background Check Requirement

    The national background check is required for the following volunteer roles regardless of how long the volunteer has resided in Washington State:

    • Volunteers who regularly work with students while unsupervised.
    • All sports volunteers*.
    • Overnight field trip chaperones if the field trip is longer than 3 days.

    How To Order Your Background Check

    If you were instructed to complete the national background check, go to to begin your online order. You may be prompted to enter a special code - it is VOLSPSD.

    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 their operating or program budgets, or request PTA assistance. 
    • 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 notify office staff. They can request a special link for your background check from the Volunteer Office for school-sponsored screens. 
    • If you face technology barriers to completing the online background check, such as lack of access to a computer, internet, credit/debit card, please notify staff so we can assist. 


    Volunteer applications and background checks are confidential and are processed by a principal-appointed staff member. Background check processing takes time – please allow at least two weeks. 

    * 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). 

    Thank you for helping us create a safe educational environment!