(The Center Square) — New York leaders have updated a year-old state law that requires background checks for camp counselors and staff after learning that some of its requirements conflict with another law.
A 2022 law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul requires state-regulated and unregulated single-purpose camps to run all employees and volunteers through the national sex offender registry using the National Crime Information Center database.
But, as it turns out, New York law only allows law enforcement officers and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to access the files, which includes a national database of sexual offenders.
So, instead, a new bill approved by lawmakers — signed into law by Hochul on Wednesday — requires single-purpose day camps and camps not regulated by the state to conduct a national sex offender registry search through the U.S. Department of Justice’s publicly accessible database before hiring a counselor or staff member.
Hochul made no mention of the previous law’s deficiencies but boasted that the updated requirements will “ensure that every child who attends camps throughout New York State is protected from predators.”
“With this new law, we will help bring camp operators and families greater peace of mind that our kids are in safe hands,” the Democrat said in a statement.
Created in 2005, the National Sex Offender Public Website links state sex offender registries into a national search site. Users can search for an individual using their name, address and scan a specific geographic area for sexual offenders. The bill’s sponsors say state-regulated summer camps are already using the website.
A bill summary said the changes are “necessary to ensure that the original intent of the law is preserved and that camps use a system that is accessible to them to conduct background checks.”
Lawmakers who backed the new legislation said the new requirements are needed to ensure that parents feel safe sending their kids to camps, regulated or unregulated.
“When parents send their children to summer camp, they want their children to have a fun and healthy experience,” state Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, a co-sponsor of both bills, said in a statement. “But foremost they should have peace-of-mind that their children are in a safe environment.”