There was an interesting story from Inside Bainbridge about Bainbridge Island School district about some volunteers who were youth pastors. An investigation was launched and the district has promised to improve its volunteer screening.
The story was about a middle school where three evangelical youth pastors had been volunteering over the last year, mostly in the lunchroom and at registration. There were several issues to this story.
One, was that normally the PTA (or, in this case, the PTO) recruits volunteers and the PTO tracks their schedules. That was not the case here. (To note, anyone can volunteer in most public schools whether a parent or not.) Several parents said they were not accusing anyone but raising the issue of who was volunteering in their schools.
Two, the principal claimed there were different levels of background checks for volunteers and only two of the pastors had been checked and none of them had had a fingerprint background check. The principal said this was because they were never going to be alone with the kids and other staff were around. I find this a pretty lame reasoning because volunteers never know when they might actually be alone with a student i.e. taking a sick student to the restroom. What's quite odd is the principal said the parents don't go through a background check. Well, there's a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Three, although there were no claims that the pastors were proselytizing or recruiting, some kids said they were "creepy" and said that some kids were asked if they wanted to go to off-campus activities. A few kids reported some inappropriate physical contact (although it does not sound like it was sexual in nature).
Four, the district seems to have its own problems with communications. In the investigation report, the district said it was clear that parents did not know the process for filing complaints with the district and that they need to have clearer volunteer guidelines. There were complaints, though, that the meeting about the issue came the same day that the report was issued and parents felt they didn't have enough time to read it, circulate it to other parents and then comment on it. This district had no explanation for this.
I haven't heard a lot of concerns raised about religion in SPS. I know that in the past there was one elementary school where was concern over an after-school "Good News" christian club that some parents said try to recruit members - via students - during the school day. I also know that several schools provide a quiet place for Muslim students to pray during the day if they so choose.
I like to think that our district and schools do a pretty good job on volunteers and who is working with children. I think that is one reason to be careful with any partnerships the district sets up with outside groups. The district needs to be sure that everyone working with children has a background check and any other required information/check.