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New law strengthens reporting requirements for people working with kids

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Making sure kids are safe. That is the goal of any education program. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is strengthening some requirements about who can have contact with children.So much has been made over the past week and a half about keeping our kids safe from people who might want to do them harm. Legislators are hoping Act 24 will do just that. The law adds new offenses to a list of crimes that would make a person ineligible to work with school aged kids. The idea is to keep them safe during any school activities.

Act 24 was approved by the legislature in June and went into effect in September. The law makes it mandatory for teachers, administrators and even sports officials to fill out a form to ensure they have not been convicted of certain crimes. The new law also implements a lifetime ban against adults who have been convicted of certain crimes, usually violent or sexual in nature. People convicted of those crimes would never be eligible for employment in a school setting. The old law only instituted a 5-year ban.

The new law also makes it mandatory for current school employees to report any arrest or conviction of certain crimes to their bosses within 72 hours. Experts say knowing who your child is interacting with is the best way to keep them safe.

"Parents need to ask, show me your child abuse policy. Show me. Don't tell me. Show me. Where are they written down? Who do we go to if you have a concern? What is my child told? What are we told about the policies and procedures that you use? What are your background policies? What kind of checks do you do on these people?" said Kelly Clark, represents child sex abuse victims.

On top of strengthening the current ban on certain crimes, Act 24 also expands the list. These crimes are now added to the list of reportable offensives: luring a child into a motor vehicle, unlawful contact with minors and solicitation of minors to traffic drugs. These crimes now carry a lifetime ban from school employment.

The law has already gone into effect – but now there is a huge undertaking going on. Every person working for a school district has to file a waiver with their employer to ensure that they have never been convicted of these crimes. Those waivers are due to the districts by December 27.

You can find a complete list of the crimes that are banned by the Department of Education by clicking on the Arrest or Conviction Report. If a person has been arrested or convicted of any of these crimes, they are now permanently banned from working with kids in a school setting.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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