Students' backgrounds keep them out of class - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Students' backgrounds keep them out of class

January 30, 2004

Albany- Fourteen students are no longer allowed to take early childhood education lab classes they've been in for the past three weeks.

"This hurts because I am trying to further my education, so that I can support my family. They want us to get off of welfare and they want us to try to get an education, but yet they still want to kick us out of school," exclaims Tracy Mathis, one of the students.

"I understand their concerns, but our concern is that we can't legally allow the students to continue according to the statute if they haven't cleared the background check," says Albany Tech President Dr. Anthony Parker.

Last session, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 198. It requires all persons who provide care to children, the elderly and those with disabilities to pass a background check. Albany Tech's program allows students to work with children in a daycare while earning credit.

"As long as we didn't have any sodomy on there, any drug charges, any carrying guns, any child molestation, we were fine, that's what we were told. We have spent money on lab jackets, we have spent money on insurance, we have spent over $200 on books," claims Tabitha Mimbs.

"We readily admit that the college should have known earlier, at the beginning of the quarter, that the students would not have been able to go forward," admits Parker.

But Parker says because of new interpretations of the statute, the school is legally bound to remove the students from the lab.

"Of course this issue was not brought about to harm students or to harm daycare workers. The concern of the people who wrote the statutes was for the small children who were in the daycare centers."

Albany Tech has agreed to put the students' classes on hold if they can get the Department of Human Resources to give them clearance to work in a daycare setting. They've also agreed to help the students change programs if they desire.

"But my desire is to be a teacher. My desire is to be nothing but a teacher," says Mathis.

"After having one class before you graduate, why would you want to change after spending $200 on books why would you want to change," says Mimbs.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what some of these students may have to do if they can't have their work records cleared.

Dr. Parker says because of the new law, the school has changed it procedures. In the future, students must pass background checks before they are accepted into the program and take any classes.

Posted at 5:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com