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March 26, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATE OKAYS TWO CHILD SAFETY MEASURES

PHOTO
Senator Florence Shapiro listens to questions about her bill to require background checks for all public school employees.

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate approved Monday one measure that would implement background checks for all public school employees and another that would increase penalties for those who commit sex offenses against children on the Internet. These bills are part of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst's Texas Children First child safety and health initiative.

Senate Bill 9, by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would mandate background checks for all public school employees. While every teacher hired after September 1, 2003 has had a background check performed, Shapiro said it is estimated that upwards of 200,000 teachers, staff and other school employees have not been vetted. This bill, she says, gives the state the chance to increase security at Texas schools and protect students. "We can never let down our guard," she said. "We have to always make sure that when the opportunity appears, that we tighten these laws as much as possible. Background checks are absolutely essential in the classroom today."

The bill would also create a centralized database for background check information that all state agencies can access, to prevent employees with a violation in the past from moving from school to school or agency to agency.

The Senate also passed a bill that would toughen penalties against on-line sexual predation aimed at children. SB 6, by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, would make explicit communication with a minor aged 14 to 16 a third-degree felony, and would make solicitation of a minor a second-degree felony. Sentences for these crimes could be set to run consecutively or concurrently.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 27, at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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