Most parents, like me, don’t like criminals hanging around with their children, or any child.
Undoubtedly, that’s why most jurisdictions have laws prohibiting adults with criminal records from volunteering in schools. In fact, a Michigan mother was recently banned from volunteeringat her child’s school because of a past conviction for writing bad checks.
Except. . . Given the fairly compelling proposition advanced in Harvey Silverglate‘s book, Three Felonies a Day, that the average American commits three acts that could be charged as felonies each day (but usually isn’t caught), who’s to say what residues of past transgressions should be kept away from our children? More prosaically, in a country that not only criminalizes all too many things (and sanctions all too many things that are morally questionable), should every “criminal” activity permanently disqualify someone from planting a school garden, being a library assistant, or even talking to kids about the wrongs in their wrongdoings?
Given that as many as one in four American men have criminal records, this means that millions of people, many who committed minor offenses and are truly “reformed,” cannot help out in schools. Should such laws be amended to distinguish between crimes so that those with a shoplifting, check-bouncing, or minor drug conviction aren’t lumped with murderers and serial sex offenders?
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12, Parents & the Public blog.