Maryland House Minority Whip Del. Haven Shoemaker is currently drafting two pieces of legislation he says are aimed at helping to protect children throughout the state from sexual predators.
Shoemaker, a Carroll County Republican, is collaborating with Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, also a Republican, to look at “critical loopholes in Maryland law that puts children at risk in both childcare and sports,” according to a news release.
The first bill would restrict registered sex offenders from working in any way to provide childcare or babysitting. This legislation aims to address what DeWees and Shoemaker referred to as a loophole in Maryland law, related to a February 2021 complaint to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.
In February 2021, Master Deputy Christopher McMillen received a complaint from a Carroll County parent indicating that her child’s babysitter was a registered sex offender. Though existing state law “prohibits a registered sex offender from working in daycare centers, or even being on daycare property in most circumstances, the law is not clear about someone running babysitting services out of their own home or property,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Shoemaker said his legislation aims to eliminate the gray area in current law.
“Although sex offenders cannot enter the property where informal childcare takes place, they can perform informal childcare out of their own home,” Shoemaker said in a news release.
Shoemaker’s second bill focuses on protecting young athletes and enforcing safety measures to ensure coaches and volunteers are properly vetted for their respective positions.
This bill stems from the arrest this past August of a Parkville man charged with second-degree rape, sexual abuse of a minor and child pornography solicitation that allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2012, according to electronic court records. The man, Michael Vincent Bonczewski, was paid to coach football at both Manchester Valley High School and for the North Carroll Recreation Council, according to DeWees.
Under Shoemaker’s bill, coaches and volunteers in Maryland would be required to receive a clearance that indicates that they have never been convicted of child abuse in any form. Pennsylvania has a similar law that requires the clearance to be renewed every three years.
The bill would also create a central repository for Maryland coaches to ensure that prior coaching history is being checked before an individual is hired as a youth sports coach.
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“This would hopefully stop coaches with bad or dangerous practices from moving from program to program with no proper reference check,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker credited the sheriff’s office for alerting him to the legal loopholes.
“They were able to provide me with a great amount of information on how these loopholes affect Carroll County especially,” Shoemaker said. “These proposed laws will protect children throughout the state and even start a new backstop to prevent those with nefarious intents to come into contact with children.”
DeWees said he appreciates Shoemaker’s willingness to tackle issues and work with law enforcement so they have the tools to hold offenders accountable.
“When you notice loopholes or deficiencies in current legislation that is designed to protect children but comes up short, it’s important to work with our legislators to correct the deficiencies and protect our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” he stated.
Shoemaker filed candidacy paperwork in July for this year’s Carroll County state’s attorney race. DeWees also filed paperwork in February to run for re-election as county sheriff. The primary election is set for June 28.