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Background checks required for dads attending dance

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EDINBURGH — Dads wanting to escort their little princesses to the annual Father-Daughter Dance at East Side Elementary School learned that increased security required they go through criminal background checks.

The added scrutiny — a first for the school — involved providing basic identification information to the school before the event so names could be checked against criminal registries.

Some parents said they were concerned about what they said was short notice for the requirement — the day before the dance — and an invasion of privacy, while others welcomed the attempt to increase security.

East Side Principal Andrea Perry said parents received letters about the requirement, established to add another layer of safety for students at school-sponsored events.

“We want to be proactive,” Perry said about safety measures for students in the school, which has kindergarten through Grade 5. “We wanted our girls to be in the safest environment possible.”

Safety was “our prime concern,” Perry said about the dance, which she described as a “huge success” with more than 100 in attendance.

Parent Derrick Lacey attended with his 9-year-old daughter and said he was glad officials decided to institute the checks, since he believes violence has become too common an occurrence at places with children.

“In today’s times, it’s crazy what can happen,” Lacey said. “I love that the Edinburgh administration and principal at East Side took this into account. When you’re talking about children, you can’t be too safe.”

Parent Carl Cowan, however, disagreed. He refused to take his daughter to the dance after learning of the background checks. He instead took her out for dinner and a movie — just the two of them.

“I just think we’re headed down the wrong track,” Cowan said, calling the background checks an invasion of privacy.

He said the schools never ask for background checks when he pays school fees or property taxes. But when he wanted to go to an event with his daughter, he would have had to provide his driver’s license and go through a criminal records check.

Cowan also was bothered that he wasn’t provided any specific rules on who would be denied entry to the dance. He understood not wanting child molesters at school-sponsored functions but did not know who else might be red-flagged by administrators.

Multiple calls last week to Edinburgh Community School Corp. Superintendent William Glentzer for comment and to clarify the policy, including who would not be allowed to attend the dance based on the background checks, were not returned.

Perry said the background checks provide a limited criminal history, take only a few minutes to do and come at no cost to parents.

Fathers who were not able to stop in at the school the day of the dance on Feb. 1 were allowed to call to provide their birth dates. Before entering the dance, they had to show their driver’s licenses or other photo ID to complete the

process, Perry said.

Parent Brian Lee, who attended with his 6-year-old daughter, thought notifying parents earlier might have been good, but otherwise he supported the increased security.

“I actually think it was a good idea,” Lee said. “With everything that’s going on with shootings at schools, it shows they’re doing something to make sure our children are safe.”

Lee thought some parents were caught off guard by the new rule, but he didn’t hear anyone complain.

Parent Kami Ervin’s husband went to the dance with their daughter, and she attended to take photos. She is supportive of the move to increase security for students and said some fathers already had background checks completed because they have served as school volunteers earlier in the school year.

In Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., background checks are not required for school functions, such as a father-daughter dance, but all full- and part-time employees have a complete criminal background check with the Indiana State Police and federal sex offender registry, said Larry Perkinson, BCSC’s student assistance director.

Perkinson added that school volunteers also go through a more limited background check.

The same is true in Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp., Superintendent Kathy Griffey said, noting that the check includes coaches and parents going on field trips.

“We want to protect our students from predators and people who potentially could be a threat,” Griffey said.

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