New York Senator Wants Better Background Checks for Camps

By Michael Klazema on 6/13/2016

School is out and summer is almost here. For some, that means a season full of beach trips and lazy afternoons spent by the pool. For many kids out there, the end of school means the arrival of summer camp season. The question is, are summer camps safe for the kids they are meant to serve?

For New York Senator Charles Schumer, the answer to that question is no. According to the Albion Times Union, Schumer thinks it's bad form that camps don't have access to the FBI criminal history and sex offender databases. He's even launched legislation written with the goal of making better background checks a real possibility for camps throughout the country.

Schumer is a United States Senator and his bill to bring FBI background checks to camps would, if passed, become a nationwide law. Understandably, the effect that the law would have for New York camps is dominating most of the conversation right now. The reason is that there is currently no consistency as to what types of organizations are or are not allowed to access the FBI databases. In New York, camps and charitable organizations are not permitted to use the FBI databases. In some other states—about a third of them, according to the Albany Times Union article—camps and charitable organizations are allowed to access the FBI's criminal and sex offender registries. As such, Schumer's bill would impact some states more than others.

Schumer's legislation is Senate Bill 2332, or the "Child Protection Improvements and Electronic Life and Safety Security Systems Act of 2015." The bill has the 2015 tag because it was referred to a congressional committee on November 30th of last year. Perhaps because summer camp season is starting now, the bill is getting a new groundswell of attention from the media this week.
The goal is to give camps and other organizations that serve children the unanimous right to use the FBI multijurisdictional criminal and sex offender databases. In states like New York, camps are already permitted to run employee background checks through state police databases. Camps can also opt to hire third-party background investigation companies to run checks in other states. Giving all youth-serving organizations in all 50 states the right to access the FBI system would put everyone on an even playing field.

The FBI databases are not, as some people think, comprehensive. They do collect criminal and sex offender information from all throughout the country, but they are not "nationwide" checks because they could not necessarily find every criminal record in any part of the country. However, if the choice is between these organizations running state checks and FBI checks or running state checks only, the inclusion of the FBI database is definitely preferable.


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