Sara Byala, mother of a third grader at Wayne Elementary School, is looking forward to the class' Walk Through Wayne field trip this month. She and her husband even took the day off to chaperone the children as they tour shops in the small town and maybe make their own pizzas at a local restaurant.

And she will have a chance to do it again in a few years with a younger daughter: That's provided Byala is willing to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal-background check - thanks to a new state law passed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The law, which takes effect July 1, is so sweeping school officials are wondering whether a homeroom mom would need to be fingerprinted before passing out cupcakes.

"This is just one more piece of madness in the whole story of how we parent our children," said Byala, a University of Pennsylvania history professor with three children who called the child-protection law a deterrent to volunteering.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who headed the task force that drafted the legislation, said the law was all about protecting children.

But even he acknowledged it might need tweaking, and Byala isn't alone in her frustration.

The new background-check requirements would apply to a wide array of adults who interact with children: school volunteers, parents, school officials, teachers, coaches, janitors, chaperones. And they would need to be renewed every three years. All school employees who have contact with children already need the clearances when hired, but with the new law, they will have to renew them if they are out of date.

Officials warn the law will affect everything from summer camps to church youth groups to services at dentists' offices - anywhere adults work with children, even for short periods.

The law will mean even stricter standards for the many districts that already require child-abuse clearances for parent volunteers; in Philadelphia, volunteers who aren't parents must be fingerprinted.

The new Child Protective Services Law emerged in the fallout from the Pennsylvania State University child-abuse scandal, and was signed in the fall by then-Gov. Tom Corbett.

Heckler said an exemption for, say, a homeroom helper "might not be unreasonable," but he also hailed the law as the toughest and best in the nation.

"It's a pain in the neck and expensive and people don't like it," Heckler said, but he added it's "for the protection of children, not the convenience of adults."

It's definitely not convenient, said Lee Ann Wenzel, the Ridley Area School District superintendent. She's one of many local administrators worried about whom the law covers, how to handle the $47 cost of a background check, and whether field trips and other activities would suffer from a sharp drop in volunteers.

"In theory, no parent would be allowed into the building" without a clearance, Wenzel said.

She said she wondered what to do about the lunch aides who work only two hours a day, the foreign teacher seeking an internship, and the city councilman showing up for an awards ceremony.

"Sen. Tom McGarrigle came in and spoke to a government class," she said. "He was walked up to the room by the building principal and was in the class with teachers. Does that necessitate having a criminal-background check?"

In Harrisburg, much of the focus so far has been on dealing with the surge of thousands of new applications for the clearances.

At one point, the backlog for criminal-clearance applications was 26 days; the legal requirement is two weeks. But the Wolf administration announced last week that it had been cut to four days thanks to an influx of new hotline workers.

"The interpretation of the statute has been problematic," said Greg Grasa, executive director of the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee, who said committee members were looking into revisions in the law based on some of the real-world concerns that have arisen.

"Everyone understands we're trying to eliminate, as best we can, the threats," Grasa said of the child-protective law. "We're not going to catch everyone, but we've given them less places to hide."

It's not just child abusers. Under the law, anyone convicted of a felony, including drug crimes, within the last five years is banned from working with and volunteering with children.

For some, concern about preventing child sexual abuse trumps complaints that the law is too confusing, draconian, or expensive.

"We call it the new normal," said Jennifer Saionz, president of the Radnor High School Parent, Teacher, and Student Association. "All you have to do is watch the evening news. Our world is so crazy."

But Saionz said the group was seeking more guidance from the state.

Radnor Superintendent Michael Kelly said the district was "spending quite a bit of time and resources attempting to do this," including hiring a mobile fingerprinting lab for three days.

Such is the confusion that some schools initially canceled field trips this spring.

Bill McMichael of Bryn Mawr, whose daughter is in fifth grade at Coopertown Elementary in Haverford Township, said school officials initially called off a trip to Baltimore but reinstated it when they realized they didn't need the clearances until July 1.

"I don't think it could be much of a help in preventing these things from happening," he said of the law. "It's only going to catch people who have been in trouble before for it, and we already have a sex-offenders registry to tell you who all those people are."

Allyn Roche, assistant superintendent of the Spring-Ford Area School District, is worried about next year's field trips. An excursion for seventh graders to the aquarium in Camden might need as many as 25 to 30 parent volunteers, and he wonders how many will go through the hassle of background checks.

"I think when you're on a field trip and a parent is responsible for a child, it's a good measure to make sure there's nothing in their background that we should be aware of," said Susan Guerette, an employment lawyer advising several schools about the new law.

"But if a mom is dropping off cupcakes, then probably not."

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@kathyboccella