Recently, our son, who has what we often call an "invisible disability", had an issue with an after school program that forced us to obtain deeper insight into how after school programs work here in our Clark County, Nevada School District. I wrote about that experience in my post "FAS - You Wouldn't Say That About My Child If It Was Autism".
The incident also led to my wife to discover what we believe is a significant safety gap for children in after school programs.
Flyers often come home from the school in my son's school back along side other school messaging. These flyers advertise after-school programs that operate on school grounds. The convenient classes are held right after school, so there's no transportation.
Unfortunately, although these indicators may lead one to believe the program is being run by the school, that is not the case. The programs are actually run solely by outside businesses.
What was even more interesting of a discovery, that came from attempts to resolve our issue with a particular after-school program, was that the school district has virtually nothing more than a transactional relationship with the businesses that run these programs on public school property. In other words, as we learned from our incident, the school has no authority over how these businesses operate their programs.
Our discovery came after we were told by the school that though the school could help us with any issues during the actual school day, we would need to find our own resolution with our issue that arose with the after school program provider.
That prompted my wife to ask the question, "What is the sign-up process for a business to use our school's public property in this manner".
The ANSWER is that all a business has to do to be the SOLE GUARDIAN OF CHILDREN on public/government property is FILL OUT A SINGLE FORM.
Now here is what blew me away...
There are no background checks required on the businesses. Further, the business' staff members, that are alone and in control of our children for an extended period of time on school property, are not required to pass a background check!
And, adding to the concern, there is also no requirement that any school staff be present during the after school activity.
You would think that sending your child to an after school program, held on school/public/government property, would have the same protections for your child as sending your child to the regular school day.
You'd think the same protections would exist. For instance, my wife and I were told we couldn't chaperone a field trip without getting background checked!
Or you'd think there'd be the same level of supervision requirements, including a safe ratio of adults to students.
Or you'd think the same protection of student privacy could be inforced.
But none of that exists.
Now our local school "assured" us that they did their own "background" testing by only allowing certain businesses that have "good records" with other schools to operate on their school property.
But that's not a real safety check!
That's a word of mouth game that has no basis in reality. Watch any documentary on Netflix and tell me how something like that can end up turning out!
At any time, one of those businesses could mistakenly hire a pedophile and there's nothing stopping them from sending that pedophile into the lion's den that is an after school program!
That just doesn't seem right!
It may seem dramatic now, but if it does happen, you will have heard it here first:
One day we will see on the national news a big story of child endangerment in an after school program that could have been avoided. People will say, "They seemed like a legitimate business". And "We thought our kids were safe because it was on school grounds". I can already see the full 24-hour coverage on CNN. Everybody will wonder how "something like this could have happened".
So of course, as good citizens, my wife and I have filed a formal notice of public concern to the school district about this gap.
Do you agree that programs with instructors in charge of children on public property should be put through a rigorous process to verify they aren't a danger to our children? Please write your thoughts in the comments below.