NYS Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) recently introduced a bill to better protect children from predators who seek work as mall Santas, Easter bunnies, and other characters.
Senate Bill S.7031 requires background checks for a person prior to employment involving substantial contact with children while dressed as a children's character and establishes penalties for violations.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of children around New York pose for pictures with people dressed as Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and other children's characters at malls. In many cases, the adults dressed as Santa or other children's characters are in close physical contact with children, including having them sit on their lap. However, unlike most other instances where people work with children, there is no requirement that people paid to costume as Santa and similar characters be screened to see if they have a history of child sexual abuse.
“There’s a list, it’s time we check it twice,” said Skoufis. “The disturbing reality is that around the country, there have been incidents where sex offenders have been hired as Santa, exposing children to significant threats. New York needs to keep our communities safe by requiring background checks for these individuals interacting with children because our families deserve nothing less. It’s shocking to me that this isn’t law already; let’s not waste another holiday season allowing our children to be put at risk.”
Town of Woodbury Police Chief Kevin Watson said, “I thank Senator Skoufis for introducing such a common-sense bill. Anyone doing a job like this is in close proximity to children and should be subject to a criminal background check. Parents who are bringing their children to see these characters should feel comfortable, and by requiring background checks, we’re taking an extra step to protect our kids. As a parent and a police chief, I wholeheartedly support this effort and look forward to it becoming law.”
If signed into law, this bill would take effect the November after the bill is signed.
“There’s a list, it’s time we check it twice.The disturbing reality is that around the country, there have been incidents where sex offenders have been hired as Santa, exposing children to significant threats." --NYS Sen. James Skoufis