LCS, update the volunteer policy

On Tuesday, the Lynchburg City School Board has an opportunity to make our schools more equitable, more diverse and more inclusive places of learning by updating the LCS volunteer policy. It should act without further delay.

Current LCS policy prohibits individuals from volunteering in public schools if they have a prior felony conviction, regardless of the nature of the offense or how far in the past the crime was committed. As a result, dozens of individuals, who have since paid their debt to society, have been denied the opportunity to volunteer in their child’s school.

These potential coaches, chaperones, afterschool club leaders, tutors and mentors are ready and eager to give back to a school system that desperately needs more family and community involvement. Instead, they are blindly rejected.

According to the National Education Association, when schools, parents, families and communities work together, students earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer and enroll in higher level programs.

In short, expanding the pool of school volunteers — especially those who reflect the full diversity of our community — is directly tied to better student outcomes. And for kids in tough spots, seeing a volunteer who has made a mistake, paid their dues and turned their life around may be just what’s needed to get back on track.

The decision to update the volunteer policy has languished for years, with the School Board slow to act despite years of public pleas from individual citizens, advocacy organizations like Virginia Organizing, and the LCS Equity Task Force. Only after a formal recommendation from the Equity Task Force in August did the School Board agree to review the policy. That was four months ago, or half of a school year.

While this change is long overdue, the board has a chance Tuesday to show they are finally ready to fix this flawed policy that is hurting our kids, our families, our community and our schools.

JENNIFER WOOFTER

Lynchburg

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