Closing a critical gap in state laws to protect kids, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) today introduced legislation that will make it easier for organizations that work with children to do more complete background checks on employees and volunteers to eliminate potential sex-offenders. While Megan’s Law enables some background checks, it is limited to Level 2 and 3 sex offenses committed after 1996.
“When kids join little league or go to day camps, their parents deserve to know that they are safe,” said Assemblyman Hevesi. “This new bill will help do that by allowing community organizations that work with children to do more complete background checks on their personnel than current law allows.”
Under current law, youth service organizations may obtain a report from the New York State Sex Offender Registry free of charge prior to hiring employees or allowing volunteers to supervise children. But the state sex offender register reports only include level 2 and 3 offenders, and do not include any crimes before January 26, 1996 – when the registry was created.
The limitations of current law came to light earlier this year when Queens little league coach David Hartshorn was charged in February with first and second degree criminal sexual acts, including the use of a child in a sexual performance, a second degree abuse. After these charges were brought, it was discovered that the same individual was charged in 1989 with promoting sexual performance by a child under the age of 16.
In this specific case, the system failed twice. Not only were the prior crimes unknown to little league organizers, but Hartshorn was allowed to plead to a far lesser charge, further shielding disclosure of his danger to children. This first bill proposed by Assemblyman Hevesi will address the disclosure concerns by allowing youth service organizations to obtain more complete sex offender background checks free of charge from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. These reports will include Level 1 crimes and convictions occurring prior to 1996. Assemblyman Hevesi will also be introducing legislation in the coming weeks to make certain child sex offenders cannot plea their way out of accountability.
“These changes in law are needed so that parents and youth organizations alike can more confidently know that adults who work with our children have no history of sex offense or sexually violent behavior,” said Hevesi. “Simply put, this law will be a major step toward keeping our kids safe from sex offenders.”