O'Brien cheers passage of 'child safe zones' bill

O'Brien cheers passage of 'child safe zones' bill

NORTH PROVIDENCE - As an educator, Rep. William O'Brien says he has classrooms full of children that he wants to see succeed. He also wants them to feel safe and secure when they are at school.

"But it's not just at or near school where children can become victims of sex offenders and abusers," he said. "As adults, as parents, as lawmakers it is our duty to keep children safe, to make the places where they visit or congregate places where children will have good, positive, learning experiences."

That's why Representative O'Brien, of District 54 in North Providence, co-sponsored legislation to establish "child safe zones" in Rhode Island, and why he is applauding the General Assembly for passing that legislation as it closed its 2014 session.

"Parents and guardians need to know their children are safe from predators when they are dropped off at school, or the playground, or camp or any of the many places that children frequent," said O'Brien in a statement. "It is important that our laws ensure safe surroundings for children and this legislation will help ensure that by establishing safe areas where child abusers and predators cannot tread."

The legislation passed by the General Assembly, sponsored in the House by Rep. Mia Ackerson, of District 45 in Cumberland and Lincoln, will prohibit any facility that provides programs or services intended primarily for minors from employing a registered sex offender.

A "child safe zone" is defined as a place intended for minors where minors are, including schools, child care facilities, and libraries, and amusement centers, among others.

The individual who made the final hiring decision for an entity that is a child safe zone that knowingly employs an offender is subject to a $1,000 fine for each day the offender is employed. An offender who knowingly misrepresents or omits his or her sex offender registration status to obtain employment in a child safe zone would, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony and be subject to imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of $5,000, or both.