Sex Offenders Can't Be Teachers, But What About Camp Counselors?
New York Senator Wants to Tighten Restrictions on Where Sex Offenders Can Work
By EMILY FRIEDMAN
June 21, 2010
Sex offenders are prohibited from being hired as teachers or school bus drivers, but the law does not prevent them from sitting in a lifeguard chair, teaching a karate class or many other child-related professions.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is proposing legislation that would close what he is calling loopholes in the federal law that currently allow pedophiles to work with children.
"Sex offenders are different than just about any other criminal because the percent of recidivism is huge and the chance for rehabilitation is unfortunately small," Schumer told ABCNews.com. "Whatever demons haunt these people don't go away."
According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice, between 12 and 14 percent of sex offenders are known to have repeated their crimes. The data does show, however, that many sex crimes go unreported and the statistic could be low.
Current federal law, known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, leaves it up to states to decide where convicted sex offenders can be employed. Under the law, there are no restrictions on a laundry list of list of child-related careers that aren't on the government's payroll, such as dance instructors, magicians, carnival workers and children museum workers. Working in an ice cream truck is, in fact, already prohibited for registered sex offenders under New York law.
"Why weren't these jobs excluded when the law was originally passed?" asked Schumer. "The answer is that in most states there was no list of [registered sex offenders]."
Spate of Sex Offender Cases Alarms Sen. Schumer
"We've only had a good federal list for the past few years," he said. "So how you can just have an employer plug in an employee's name to the list and check [if he's a sex offender]."
Schumer, who announced the proposed change in legislation on Sunday, said he was motivated to do so after several reports involving registered sex offenders and children around the New York area.
In February, authorities discovered that a a popular karate school in Queens, N.Y., was being run by a convicted child molester who had been convicted nine years ago of abusing an 11-year-old girl.
While the convict was labeled a "level 2 offender" who is considered at "medium" risk to repeat his offense, he was only required to register where he lives, not where he works.
Earlier this month it was discovered that two convicted sex offenders had been hired as high school basketball referees in New York City.
Last year, an elevator repair man working for the New York Department of Education was also discovered to be a registered sex offender.
While the DOE does fingerprint anyone who comes in contact with children before determining their eligibility for employment, the elevator worker had slipped through because he was working for a company contracted by the department, according to reports.
"The fact that these sex offenders are able to coach our children's teams, operate rides at fairs, and give dance and music lessons is beyond scary and we must take immediate action to stop it," said Schumer.
Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union did not immediately respond to messages left by ABCNews.com.
But in February, when several YMCAs made news by revoking the memberships of registered sex offenders in an attempt to comb out predators who may come in contact with the thousands of children who use those Ys, offender advocacy groups weren't happy.
"I assume that at some point we'll get to a place where registered sex offenders won't be allowed to breathe," Paul Shannon, one of the founders of the Boston-based Reform Sex Offender project, said in an interview at the time. "This is just going down the same path of lunacy."