In the summertime, children in PA and NJ often attend youth centers or community centers which conduct or sponsor camps and other activities. These types of organizations can be prime targets for sexual predators. It’s an issue that has received quite a bit of media attention in the last few years – sexual abuse of children in institutional situations (schools, camps, youth centers, etc.).
Lax Background Checks – How Predators Get Access to Children
Background check requirements vary from state to state. With the increase in the number of major scandals, states have been quick to tighten background check requirement laws. Over the last few years, legislatures in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have tightened background check requirements for individuals who work with children. However, many of the regulations apply to public/private schools and nonprofit entities. They don’t always apply to private businesses like a private youth center. Basically, someone who would fail a background check at a school might not be required to obtain one at a private youth center or youth organization.
Failure to Conduct a Proper Background Check – Negligent Conduct
In some instances, an organization may fail to properly conduct a background check, and this leads directly to sexual abuse or assault.
For instance, a predator applies for a job as a youth camp instructor. He passes state required criminal history checks. However, he has a history of inappropriate behavior with children. Several parents complained and as a result, he was fired from his last job. However, the new employer fails to contact the previous employer who made a note in the file about the behavior, and the predator is hired. He abuses a child in his care.
Here, the youth camp/organization may be held liable for failing to perform a background check. The child (and the parents) may have a valid lawsuit against the organization. The basis of the claim is negligence in conducting a reasonable background check. While the individual may have passed state required checks, a simple follow up with the prior employer would have revealed the history of inappropriate contact with children.
Passing the Trash – A Unique Problem
It’s also important to discuss a phenomenon unique to institutional sexual abuse and assault. It’s known as “passing the trash.” This refers to a situation when one employer fails to warn a subsequent employer about a specific employee. Here’s a discussion of how “passing the trash” works, using the example above. When conducting a background check, the potential employer contacts the prior one. However, even though there is a note in the file about the employee’s history of inappropriate contact with children, the former employer mentions nothing about it. Instead, the former employer gives a good review and recommends the prospective employee for hire. Essentially, the former employer has passed the trash. This happens quite often when it comes to child predators, and under the laws of PA and NJ, former employers who engage in this practice may face civil liability.
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