Parents Barred from Volunteering at Children's School

A 36-year-old woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., wants to chaperone field trips at her children's school. But because of some bad checks she wrote a decade ago, that's out of the question.

Wendy Cross is barred under a school policy that requires volunteers to undergo criminal background checks and disqualifies anyone with a felony record. Now Cross is circulating a petition.

A similar dispute is flaring in Rhode Island, where a woman sentenced to prison for heroin possession is suing the Cranston school system for the right to volunteer.

The cases reflect the gray areas schools face as they use background checks to weed out volunteers with criminal pasts.

Districts say background checks help them protect children, but the policies inevitably encompass people with nonviolent offenses.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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