With Easter just around the corner, it means another occasion where actors will be dressing up in costumes and portraying an iconic holiday character. And just like Christmastime brings concerns over "Bad Santas" getting hired at shopping malls and public parks, parents apparently now should be cautious about letting their kids interact with Easter Bunny impersonators.
That much was made evident recently in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where an Easter Bunny actor at a high-traffic shopping mall was revealed as a convicted sex offender. The man had been hired by Cherry Hill Photo, a business located in Greensburg's Westgate Mall. Cherry Hill had hired him to dress up as the Easter Bunny and take pictures with kids, given the upcoming holiday. They only learned later that he was a convicted sex offender, charged with statutory rape for having sexual relations with a 15-year-old when he himself was 19.
The good news is the that man didn't have much contact with children before Cherry Hill Photo learned of his past and terminated his employment. To be exact, he portrayed the Easter Bunny for a total of 12 hours, between being hired and being fired. No incidents have been reported from during that time span. Still, the fact that a sex offender could have ever been hired to a job that involves so much close contact with children is disturbing, and should cause pause for parents considering visits to these Easter Bunny or Santa actors at malls throughout the country.
In this case, the missed background check was mostly just a flub, rather than an oversight in policy. Cherry Hill Photo neglected to follow standard protocol, which requires each store to send information on new hires to their corporate office. Corporate then peruses the information, does a "comprehensive background check," and gives final approval. Since the Cherry Hill Photo in Westgate Mall didn't follow those steps, the Easter Bunny actor in question was allowed to temporarily work without a background check.
However, it does seem like additional steps should be taken to ensure these seasonal holiday-related hires are screened. Often, these Easter Bunny or Santa actors interact with customers of the whole mall, not just of one particular store. With that in mind, shouldn't the mall do its own background checks on these individuals to make sure they are safe, especially given how kid-oriented the job is? It's a question that cases like this one could, at very least, help to answer.