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Giarrusso Bill would Expand Third-Party Background Checks for School Workers

Loophole led to a 35-year-old man arrested for child porn to work on as an EG bus monitor.

A bill closing a loophole that doesn't require third-party contractors working with state school districts to conduct national background checks on employees was heard before the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by East Greenwich Rep. Antonio Giarrusso, was drafted in response to an incident in November when a 35-year-old man was arrested on child pornography charges. 

The same man was apparently a school bus monitor who handed out candy to children on the school bus.

Giarrusso happens to be the father of an 11-year-old boy who rode on the bus with the man, who was arrested for collecting and swapping explicit photos of underage children with other people on the Internet.

Giarrusso told the committee that the bill "simply tightens up the existing law we have" and the existing law doesn't prevent someone from being a bus monitor if a background check determines they have a child porn conviction, the Providence Journal reported.

Under the bill, third-party vendors and contract employees would be required to pass a national criminal background check.

In a release, Giarrusso said the bill has the support of the state Attorney General and "I cannot imagine a scenario in which this legislation does not receive overwhelming support in the House and Senate this year. This bill expands protection of school children across the state, and helps ensure our kids are not placed in vulnerable situations with people hired to care and look after them."

Giarrusso’s bill also adds conviction for possession and sharing of child pornography to the list of “disqualifying information” for employment, automatically disqualifying an individual from employment.

In announcing his support for the legislation, state Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said “It is imperative that we protect our children from sexual predators and keep our schools safe from those who engage in the deviant and illegal act of manufacturing, possessing or disseminating child pornography.”

Giarrusso thanked the AG for his support, and said “I think this is a great example of how our system works when it works well.” 

“We had input from throughout the community, we were able to attract the attention and support of the Attorney General, and we rather quickly were able to craft a solution and get it before the General Assembly."

Giarrusso’s bill was co-sponsored by four Democratic legislators, State Representatives Anastasia Williams (D-Providence), John G. Edwards (D-Portsmouth, Tiverton), Patricia Serpa (D- West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Donald Lally (D-Narragansett, South Kingstown).

Giarrusso’s bill filed in late January can be found here.

Pacman731 March 07, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Mark, I applaud Rep. Giarusso's bill and it will enhance the safety of our children. However, based on the information presented to date, it would not have prevented the situation at hand. The person of concern had background checks run, with no convictions found. As abhorrent as his supposed crime is. It is important to remember that in our system, we are innocent until proven guilty or admit guilt. So, an arrest.... does NOT equal a conviction and only an assumption of guilt, via a "no lo contendere", etc. or a conviction serves as automatically disqualifying conditions. So while it expands and tightens the rules, it appears that it would NOT be "closing the loophole" that allowed this situation to occur.
Winston Smith March 07, 2014 at 09:52 AM
Rep Giarrusso said as much at the hearing on Wednesday. The system will always be imperfect, but important to make it as easy as possible to identify potential problems.

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