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Pottsgrove Holds On Volunteer TB Tests For Now

Measuring (above) for tuberculosis skin sensitivity

POTTSTOWN PA – Parents and others in the Pottsgrove School District will not be required to submit tuberculosis (TB) test results, for now, to demonstrate their suitability as volunteers working with students or the public at school functions.

The Board of School Directors voted Tuesday night (Aug. 25, 2015) to temporarily suspend only the TB testing portion of its procedures in screening individuals for volunteer duties. It wants its policy committee to determine how, or if at all, the district might seek test results in the future.

In agreeing to the change directors said they were responding to overwhelming demands in e-mails and on social media from constituents who, board member Dee Gallion claimed, considered the cost of TB testing “an onerous burden.”

Potential volunteers must still provide a Pennsylvania criminal background check conducted by the state police, a child abuse history clearance from the state Department of Human Services, and an arrest and conviction report and certification. All are required under Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services laws.

Board members also said they would explore revising some district forms used for screening in an attempt to limit Pottsgrove’s liability from health- or crime-related problems volunteers might pose.

Their administrators and solicitor have suggested that, regardless of conflicting policies in neighboring districts or what some board members believe are antiquated regulations, Pottsgrove is legislatively bound to require TB testing. Superintendent Shellie Feola reminded directors the district is “compelled to follow school code,” but recognized their prerogative to decide on the issue as they saw fit.

Research done separately by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bill Shirk and board member Rick Rabinowitz show area districts vary widely in how they deal with tuberculosis testing. Four do not require it; six do; and a majority of others either do so with qualifications or have no readily available policy addressing it.

Several have crafted their requirements to ward off volunteers’ complaints about out-of-pocket testing costs. The Methacton School District, Rabinowitz said, allows volunteers to be tested with an appointment by a physician working for the schools. Other districts limit testing to only volunteers who work more than 10 hours a week, he added.

“The last thing I want to do is have use make a decision that compromises the health of our children,” Rabinowitz said in advocating the change. “I’m confident we’re not going to have any cases of TB because of this,” he later added.

Fellow directors John Rossi, David Faulkner and Gallion all said they believed failure to suspend the TB test requirement would have a chilling effect on volunteerism support. “We cannot function without volunteers,” Rossi explained. “There’ll be no one selling hot dogs, no one serving pizza.”

The impact on volunteerism may be more keenly felt in Pottsgrove than elsewhere, Faulkner added, because its pool of volunteers is small and some are economically disadvantaged.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Aug. 25 meeting):

Other coverage:

Photo from Wikimedia

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