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The case of Vincent Greco, a reported sex offender who was recently discovered to be volunteering with music students after school at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, highlights questions about the supervision and screening of school volunteers.
Greco was not checked for criminal convictions though he volunteered regularly at the school.
School volunteers are not required to be fingerprinted for criminal convictions under California law or San Diego Unified policy. Principals are given latitude to decide whether or not fingerprinting or a background check is needed.
But state law indicates that such volunteers should be under the “immediate supervision and direction of the certificated personnel of the district,” such as teachers or principals. San Diego Unified spokesman Jack Brandais said the teacher who oversaw Greco said she was almost always present and supervising the volunteer.
“The only time she wasn’t was when she stepped out to make a copy,” Brandais said.
Teresa Lopez, a parent volunteer at the school, fears otherwise.
“My son said that every time he came to the classroom the teacher disappeared,” Lopez said.
Brandais said that Mitzi Lizarraga, principal at the school, would not be available to comment on why Greco was not fingerprinted or how closely he was supervised.
Greco had already been dismissed earlier this month as a volunteer due to “artistic differences,” San Diego Unified spokesman Jack Brandais said. The Union-Tribune reported that sex crime detectives learned about a possible instance of inappropriate contact between Greco and an SCPA student last week.
The episode also highlights larger questions about who should be screened and how. Danielle Grijalva, director of the Oceanside-based Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, said in an e-mail that the Greco case illustrates the importance of making sure that school volunteers are fingerprinted to screen out sex offenders. She cited a study by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that found some sexual predators who used their positions as volunteer teachers to gain access to kids.
Grijalva has specifically advocated for fingerprinting of host families who welcome foreign exchange students to their homes; state Assemblyman Lori Saldaña pushed unsuccessfully in 2006 for legislation that would require such fingerprinting.