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March 5 2014

Rhode Island Bill Expands Background Checks for Third-party School Employees

Scott Sanford worked closely enough with East Greenwich schoolchildren to give them treats on the school bus. But the friendly bus monitor was not a “school employee.” This meant he was not legally required to pass a national criminal background check before he started working with East Greenwich schoolchildren, including the son of a state lawmaker.

Sanford’s employment with a third-party contractor drew attention in November when the 35-year-old town resident was arrested by state police on child pornography charges. The father of the 11-year-old boy who rode on the bus with Sanford, testified before state lawmakers in a bid to expand the state law on criminal background checks. “What this bill does is it simply tightens up the existing law that we have,” Rep. Antonio Giarrusso, R-East Greenwich, told the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare.

The bill adds employees of third-party vendors and contract employees who work at schools to the list of individuals who must pass a national criminal background check under state law, said Special Assistant Attorney General Joee M. Lindbeck. That new language and other changes would give greater protection to children, Lindbeck said.