Over in Sacramento, San Mateo and San Francisco Counties’ very own Senator Leland Yee, PhD is still busy, busy, busy with new bills.
Senate Bill SB447 is no-brainer about reforming criminal background check policies for California youth organizations. It’s only a matter of time before this one becomes law. Read on below and after the jump.
Bill would Reform Criminal Background Check Policy for Youth Organizations
Yee’s legislation would help protect children in youth programs from predators, violent criminals
SACRAMENTO – Last week, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) introduced legislation to help protect children involved in youth organizations from sexual predators and other violent criminals. Senate Bill 447 would reform the criminal background check policy at the approximately 36,000 youth organizations and human resource agencies across the state that work with children and vulnerable populations.
Such organizations, including the Boy Scouts and youth soccer leagues, are currently required to conduct criminal background checks of their staff and members. Each group appoints a “Custodian of Records” to review the background checks for their organization and assess if a person’s criminal history poses a potential danger to the population the agency or organization serves.
However, there is a dangerous loophole in the law. The Custodian of Records also reviews his or her own criminal record that is sent to the group by the California Department of Justice (DOJ). This loophole may result in an individual who has been convicted of a violent crime or crimes against children serving as the Custodian of Records without others in the agency being aware of his/her criminal history.
“SB 447 will help protect children from predators and other violent criminals by closing an obvious loophole in the law,” said Yee. “Those determining who can work with children should not be reviewing their own records and determining if they are fit to serve. Parents deserve assurance that their kids are safe when they are dropped off at a soccer practice or scouts meeting.”
Specifically, SB 447 will close this loophole by creating a program in which the DOJ will review the criminal record information for Custodian of Records applicants and confirm if they are suited for the position. The DOJ will ensure that the people appointed to this position do not have a felony or any offense involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or fraud. The program will be funded by a $30 fee for all Custodian of Records applicants.
In 1997, a student at Rio Linda High School was raped and murdered by a temporary janitor with a previous criminal record, including two strikes for voluntary manslaughter and armed robbery. At the time, another loophole in state law existed that did not require temporary or substitute employees to go through criminal background checks. The brutal murder of Michelle Montoya prompted the Legislature to change state law – banning the hiring of felons and requiring complete background checks of all school employees, including temporary and substitute workers.
“Unfortunately, it took the loss of an innocent life for the law to change regarding temporary school employees,” said Yee. “It is vital that we are proactive and close the loophole regarding Custodians of Records before we have another unnecessary tragedy.”