Kentucky Senator Rand Paul acknowledges that parents with certain criminal records should be allowed more participation in their children’s education than some school districts allow.
As WFPL reported this week, Jefferson County Public Schools and other school districts ban anyone with a felony offense on their record from participating as a full-time volunteer.
JCPS officials say parents and guardians can still volunteer, but not have a supervisory role. This means they can still attend field trips, but they can’t ride the bus with students and must only supervise their child.
Paul says those who’ve committed certain crimes but served their time need to have a way back into society.
“There’re some people who aren’t going to be forgiven for some violent crimes, you’re just not going to be allowed around kids,” Paul said.
“But for non-violent crimes and youthful mistakes and indiscretions, I think there needs to be a way to work yourself back into society.”
Paul was responding to comments made by Shawn Gardner, founder of 2Not1—an organization that encourages more father involvement—last week during a forum on charter schools in Louisville. Gardner says he got into legal trouble in his early 20s and now is not allowed to be a full-time volunteer in Jefferson County Public Schools.
The district currently bans any applicant from volunteering if they were guilty of any felony offense. During the 2010 school year, more than 1,000 applicants were rejected from volunteering, and a district report pointed to a higher correlation between rejections and schools with more low income students.
Paul says Gardner’s story is another example of the cycle which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to maintain an adequate lifestyle.
“I’m not saying it’s good to be involved with drugs, it’s a bad idea, but the non-violent crimes are putting people into a cycle where some don’t ever get to vote, like the old Jim Crow. Some don’t ever get a job because they’ve got a record. Then they fall behind on child support. Then they’re a felon again,” Paul said.
To see WFPL’s previous coverage of rejected volunteers in the public school system, click here.