A bill, A. 09287, sponsored by Assembly Member Dov Hikind, and cosponsored by Assembly Members Harvey Weisenberg and Helene Weinstein, would require the nonpublic schools to fingerprint and conduct criminal history background checks on their employees. http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A09287&term=2011
Attached are letters of support from seven nonprofit groups that support this bill, including our own:
1. Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Inc.;
2. Ohel Children's and Family Services;
3. Rabbinical Council of America;
4. CHILD - Children's Health Care Is a Legal Duty;
5. Prevent Child Abuse NY;
6. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children;
7. American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children - New York.
Currently, all NYS public schools are required to background check their employees; but, for nonpublic schools, it is optional. Our own organization was, in 2006, successful in advocating for the law, Education Law 3001-d, that at least permits nonpublic schools to fingerprint their employees.
In 2007, working with Senator Dean Skelos, we were successful in advocating for the first mandated fingerprint bill for nonpublic schools - that bill passed the Senate, but was never voted upon by the Assembly.
The bill was re-introduced in subsequent years, but has still not passed.
Our Freedom of Information Law request upon the State Education Department reveals that only one per cent, 19 out of 1,900 nonpublic schools, are fingerprinting their employees.
The State Education Department also informed us that from 2001 through 2011, there were 1,653 public school job applicants, outside New York City, who were rejected for employment because of their serious criminal histories. (The New York City Department of Education declined our FOIL demand.)
There are over 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, including 30,000 in New York. These people, and others with serious criminal histories such as Moshe Pinter, should not work near children where they can inflict harm.
Our February 2009 Position Paper to the State Legislature, available on our web site, elaborates as to all of the many reasons why employee fingerprinting and criminal history background checks are essential for child safety.
The recent ongoing media attention about child abuse in religious and private schools, including yeshivas, Horace Mann, and Brooklyn Poly Prep, makes it so imperative that New York joins the 13 other states that require fingerprinting and background checks for nonpublic schools.
There are approximately 450,000 children who attend New York's nonpublic schools, about 15 percent of the total.
Child sex abuse is a horrific crime that often inflicts significant, long term damage. Alcohol and drug abuse, impaired cognitive functioning, actual brain damage, serious clinical depression, and suicide are among the consequences.
There is also an economic impact to society which is staggering. The NYS Senate Democratic Conference recently reported, in an April 30, 2012 report, that the immediate economic impact of child sex abuse is $211 million; the long term economic impact is $2.1 billion.
Most recently, on June 28, 2012, orthodox New York City Council Member David Greenfield, representing Borough Park, introduced a Resolution, 1393-2012, which, if passed, will urge the State Legislature to pass a mandated fingerprint law for nonpublic schools.
The Council Resolution has 20 sponsors, including Speaker Christine Quinn. It was referred to the Council Education Committee.
We are deeply concerned that there may be other persons with serious criminal histories working or volunteering in the nonpublic schools. Last year, the media reported about convicted sex offender Joseph Denice volunteering at Catholic schools in Queens.
In today's Jewish Press, an op-ed by David Mandel, CEO of Ohel Children's and Family Services, a large New York City nonprofit organization, calls for mandatory fingerprinting of nonpublic school employees.
We once again respectfully urge the State Legislature to immediately pass the mandated fingerprint, background check bill for nonpublic school employees.
The longer we wait, the more likely it is that more disasters will happen.
Elliot Pasik, Esq.
President, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Inc.
52 East Olive Street
Long Beach, NY 11561
Telephone: (516) 371-2800; (516) 578-0250