AP NEWS

Lawmaker seeks sex abuse background checks for mall Santas

December 19, 2019 GMT

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York lawmaker wants to require sex abuse background checks for people looking to become mall Santas.

The legislation aims to better protect children by requiring employers to see if the applicants have been convicted of child sex abuse, State Sen. James Skoufis said.

Under the legislation, the checks would be required for people applying to work as Santa or the Easter Bunny, along with other characters that have significant contact with children.

“There’s a list, it’s time we check it twice,” Skoufis said in a statement Thursday.

A registered sex offender in Florida was arrested last year after he posted an advertisement to play Santa Claus.

“It’s shocking to me that this isn’t law already,” the Democrat said in a statement. “Let’s not waste another holiday season allowing our children to be put at risk.”

Kevin Watson, police chief for the town of Woodbury in Orange County, expressed support for the legislation and praised it as 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,” he said in a statement.

Under the proposal, employers can face a misdemeanor charge if they knowingly employ a sex offender in violation of the bill.

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Ryan Tarinelli is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage in a partnership with The Associated Press for New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.