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      Tuscaloosa County Schools implementing background checks for visitors, volunteers

      The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education has voted to implement background checks for any visitors and volunteers entering the schools starting this school year.

      Administrators said they have no reason to question any volunteers, and this is simply another step they are taking to increase safety at schools.

      "I don't have any bad experiences with a volunteer coach yet," says James Marcus, basketball coach at Collins Riverside Middle School. "I have three right now and we haven't had any bad experiences with them yet."

      In addition to getting buzzed into the building - a precaution schools started last year - visitors have to stop by the front office and have their driver's license swiped. This will pull up a criminal history, and let them know right away if the visitor is a sex offender or has any outstanding warrants.

      "You're coming to eat lunch with your child or you're coming to see a program, you'd scan your driver's license in a scanner at the school," School Board member Mark Nelson said. "It doesn't cost you anything. It will pick up on any major red flags at that point."

      Permanent or long-term volunteers will undergo a more detailed background check. This could cost anywhere between $5 to $25, depending on what information is needed.

      "We're concerned about the safety of our students," Nelson said. "We've been looking for something for quite some time. It's just been getting the funding available to make it happen."

      The Board is investing $60,000 in the quick-check system. Teachers and coaches said this is only a small price to pay for the added security.

      Marcus said he feels like this will make it easier for him to choose good volunteers.

      "Parents are a great influence on kids,"{}he said. "You want that factor that's going to improve their lives. You don't want anyone who's going to bring them down."