Theresa Siegler is a mom with a criminal record. Twelve years ago she was arrested and convicted of a felony drug charge – a conviction that stops her from volunteering at her child’s school. She thinks the policy needs to be reevaluated because she wants the opportunity to volunteer and be around her child. While I think people should be forgiven past transgressions, I understand why it’s just too complicated to approach each parent on a case-by-case basis.
In 2002, Siegler was arrested in Florida for trafficking 10 grams of ecstasy. She says she was present when the drugs were sold to an undercover officer and spent a year in jail. She was 22-years-old. Since then she’s gotten married and had a daughter. Under Seminole county’s volunteer policy, Siegler’s felony conviction disqualifies her for being a volunteer.
It’s really tough luck that she was convicted for simply being there – and I’m not being facetious. I was 20 once and hung around the wrong people – this easily could have happened to me. But she was convicted. What is the district supposed to do about their policy – analyze each felony conviction to see which offenders should get the okay to be around children? I personally think it’s fine for her and other rehabilitated convicts who don’t have violent offenses under their belts to be around children, but I can understand why the district would approach things like this with caution – and err on the side of, “nope.”
Siegler says of her daughter and case, “Surely anyone who looks at her can tell that I’m not this horrible person around kids. I understand why they have screenings, I just think they should apply a little bit of common sense to them.”
She’s only allowed to help out when kids aren’t around. She’s not allowed on field trips and can’t eat in the school’s cafeteria. The district responded to questions about Siegler’s situation by saying that she could “have contact with her own daughter, but not in an area where other students are located. Based upon our criminal background screening guidelines, she is denied this ability because of a felony conviction drug charge.”
I feel for this mom, but these rules are in place to protect children. It’s sad that she has to miss out on things because of something that happened in her past – but where do we draw the line? Would parents be okay with changing the fingerprint and background check to not include parents with felony drug charges? I doubt it. Ideally, it would be great to be able to look at these on a case-by-case basis, but who decides in that scenario? Are the principals and school administrators expected to act as secondary judges?
The policy may be black and white, but if it’s in place to protect kids – I support it.