Fingerprinting worries some elementary school parents | AspenTimes.com

Fingerprinting worries some elementary school parents

John Colson

At least a few Aspen Elementary School parents were unhappy when they found themselves getting fingerprinted at Back to School Night on Sept. 20.Dave, who did not give his last name, called The Aspen Times to object to what he believed was an invasion of his privacy, as well as a possible violation of his civil liberties and those of other parents.”I just think it’s pretty intimidating from a civil liberties point of view, especially for Latino parents, who may be coming from countries with more severe civil liberties issues,” he said.But Superintendent Diana Sirko said fingerprinting is routine at the district and at other schools. Only parents who plan to volunteer on extended school outings must comply.”I think … the way it was presented … a bunch of parents thought they had to do it,” explained Sirko, conceding that she has received a few e-mails of complaint about the practice.”They were confused,” she maintained, adding that fingerprinting parent volunteers is “real routine; most districts do it. If it seemed like everybody had to do it, it does seem odd.”School Resource Officer Brad Onsgard said the Aspen Police Department fingerprints parent volunteers every fall, and throughout the year as needed “to save the jail the headache.” Citizens can be fingerprinted at the Pitkin County Jail for a variety routine circumstances.According to Onsgard, he and fellow officer Dan Glidden took fingerprints for more than two hours at Back to School Night and only one parent objected.”We had one woman, she just took her card and left” after having her fingerprints taken and then talking with Onsgard about the process, he said.Onsgard said the service was announced at Back to School Night and there was a sign indicating where parents should go to take part. He admitted it might have seemed to some that fingerprinting was mandatory, not voluntary, if they did not actually talk to him or Glidden.The Colorado Bureau of Investigation conducts background checks on all parents who are fingerprinted and lets the district know if “anything pops up” regarding criminal histories, Sirko said.”We don’t get a lot of detailed information,” she said. For example, a drunk driving citation or conviction would not disqualify a parent from volunteering.The precaution is taken, Onsgard confirmed, “just to make sure we don’t have a pedophile or worse” volunteering to escort children on field trips.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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