Someone from within your parent group stealing money—maybe a lot of money. That couldn’t happen to you, could it? It’s almost unthinkable.
Actually, it might surprise you how frequently PTO and PTA embezzlement happens. At PTO Today, we hear about it in the news and in our social community more and more, and we want to make sure parent group leaders are aware of how much of an issue it’s become—and how you can protect your school parent group or booster club in case it happens to you.
A Growing Problem
In March 2019, a woman in East Fallowfield, Pa., who served as treasurer of two school-based volunteer organizations in the Coatesville Area School District admitted to taking more than $40,000 from a variety of fundraising events, telling authorities she was “drowning in debt.”
Also in March 2019, the president of the Pine Beach Elementary PTO in Beachwood, N.J., was accused of stealing more than $14,000 from the parent group. Investigators found withdrawals from the PTO’s bank account that matched deposits the president made to her checking account.
In August 2019, a former treasurer from the Newton (Mass.) Parent Teacher Organization Council was arrested for transferring some $14,600 of PTO funds into her own accounts over a period of several years.
From May through November 2018, the treasurer at Benjamin Franklin Elementary West Campus PTO in Mesa, Ariz., took more than $18,000, withdrawing large amounts of cash and using the parent group debit card for personal transactions.
The former treasurer of the Berkeley Glenn Elementary PTO in Waynesboro, Va., drained about $12,000 from the PTO bank account from August 2017 to May 2018, using the money at bars, restaurants, and clothing stores.
The former president of the H.G. Hill Middle School PTO in Nashville, Tenn., was alleged to have stolen up to $31,490 from August 2014 to August 2017, using schemes that included making cash withdrawals from the PTO account, keeping money from fundraisers, and making multiple personal purchases with the PTO debit card.
The list goes on. These cases aren’t limited to type or size of group, area of the country, or relative affluence of the school district—in fact, Newton is among the wealthiest towns in Massachusetts. It can—and does—happen to groups of all types.
There are safeguards all parent groups and booster clubs should put in place to reduce the risk of embezzlement. But they’re not foolproof; even groups with the tightest financial controls can find themselves victims of embezzlement.
What can school parent groups and booster clubs do? It’s impossible to predict whether this will happen to your group. Even if you think you know each other well, people do things that are unexpected and unpredictable. And there are circumstances that cause people to behave in ways they wouldn’t normally, like the Pennsylvania leader who said she was driven to stealing because of her mounting debt.
So don’t try to predict—instead, protect. Parent group insurance, specifically the Crime coverage included in PTO Today’s Recommended and Complete insurance packages, protects your group by restoring embezzled funds. Learn more about PTO Today’s comprehensive insurance options.
It can take time for a group to recover from the emotional blow of embezzlement. If you’re protected with insurance, you won’t need to contend with the permanent loss of the money, too—especially because, as with the cases mentioned above, it often turns out to be a lot of money missing by the time the theft is discovered.
(Note: Directors & Officers coverage protects parent group leaders from lawsuits made against them as individuals—it doesn’t protect the group itself from theft committed by a leader. Crime coverage is required to replace the stolen money.)