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Editorial: Registering abusers

Monday, January 19, 2004

Protecting children these days isn't as simple as covering their scrapes with a bandage after a fall. Responsible adults are working to make sure that our children are well protected and safe whether they're at school, church or elsewhere.

Background checks by employers are prudent means of protecting children. But when child-care employers and school districts doing those checks turned to a statewide registry of suspected child abusers, they found examples of accusations rather than convictions.

Earlier this month, a Cole County circuit judge ruled the list was unconstitutional.

While the idea of keeping a registry of convicted child abusers is prudent, it's another thing altogether for the state to maintain a list of individuals who are only suspected or accused of abuse.

None of the names on the registry was available to the general public, but the state was required to disclose the names to prospective child-care employers.

It isn't reasonable that the list would include names of people only suspected of child abuse, particularly when all it took was a telephone call to a hotline for a person's name to get added to the list. A list of convicted child abusers makes more sense as a safeguard for protecting children.

In addition, the list of suspected child abusers made people appear guilty even if they were not.

This registry, while well-intentioned, operated poorly and needs to be corrected.


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