The full Senate has given unanimous approval to House Bill 2228, creating the “Protect Against Pedophiles Act.” The measure, by Senator Kyle Loveless and Rep. Joe Dorman, gives schools a greater ability to protect Oklahoma children from predators by conducting background checks for adults volunteers. The measure was approved on Monday, 44 to 0.
“Pedophiles actively seek paid or volunteer positions that will bring them into contact with children. That’s one of the reasons we screen teachers and other employees,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “But according to federal law, those schools cannot screen volunteers unless state law specifically authorizes it. House Bill 2228 will give our schools that authorization.”
“As a parent, when I drop my daughter off at school, I want every measure that is reasonable to ensure her safety and I think today we are one step closer to maximizing the safety of our children.” Loveless said.
According to HB 2228, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) would conduct the criminal background check, which would be paid for by the school district or the volunteer. College students who are required to spend time in public schools as part of their curriculum, such as education majors who do student-teaching, would be required to pay the fee themselves.
Dorman said the background checks would include finger printing, making it more difficult for predators to hide past crimes.
The bill also defines "Prospective volunteer" as a parent, guardian or any
individual who intends to volunteer in a capacity that gives him or her direct contact with students on a regularly scheduled or continuing basis or that gives him or her supervisory responsibility for students at a school site or on a school-sponsored trip.
“There are individuals using a false identity in order to be able to enter our schools and interact with students, according to OSBI information,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “This bill gives schools a tool to catch these individuals, whether they are pedophiles or simply adults who should not be interacting with students.”
HB 2228 now returns to the House of Representatives for approval of Senate amendments.