The Senate Appropriations Committee has given approval to a measure to better protect Oklahoma children from child molesters.
Sen. Kyle Loveless is Senate author of House Bill 2228, creating the “Protect Against Pedophiles Act,” which was approved on Wednesday.
Loveless said federal law forbids schools to require background checks unless they are specifically allowed by state law.
“The bill would give school districts authorization to require background checks for volunteers,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City.
“We know that pedophiles seek out jobs or volunteer work that will bring them into contact with children. Schools already do criminal background checks on teachers—this simply gives them the authority to require the same of volunteers if a district chooses to do so.”
Under HB 2228, authored by Rep. Joe Dorman in the House, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation 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.
“We’ve seen far too many cases of pedophiles gaining easy access to their prey through working or volunteering in schools, churches and youth organizations. It is a crime that affects children for the rest of their lives,” Loveless said. “HB 2228 gives us another tool for stopping sexual predators from victimizing Oklahoma children.”
HB 2228 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.