Illinois’ new law is expected to help reduce the risk of children falling victim to predators who may be employed in the carnival industry. When carnival companies perform criminal background checks on all employees, they can weed out workers who have been convicted of child abuse and those who are registered sex offenders.
New Law Expands Existing Requirements
Previously, carnival owners were only required to perform background checks on employees hired to operate rides. Beginning on January 1, 2019, Illinois now requires carnival companies to run criminal background checks on all employees regardless of the jobs they perform, whether it is operating a ride or running a game. This requirement is similar to what is required of school bus drivers and day-care workers. If carnival companies fail to check the criminal histories of their new hires, they will be subjected to increased fines.
What Prompted the Need for the Law?
Senate Bill 3240, which passed with the bipartisan support of both the State House and Senate was prompted by past tragedies where children lost their lives. This bill, sponsored by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) was in response to the 2014 death of Blayne Benefield who died at the hands of two brothers who were employees of Big H Amusements, formerly A&A Amusements.
While Big H Amusements performed background checks on ride operators, it was not required to check other employees. The company claimed neither employee was a ride operator. However, photo evidence was provided that showed one brother operating a ride the night before Blayne’s murder. Both brothers had criminal records and the younger had a prior conviction of sexual assault on a minor just one year prior to the murder. The new law will make carnival owners accountable for failing in their duty to protect children and the public from dangerous individuals.
Parents Should Still Be Cautious
What parents do not know can put their children’s safety at risk. When taking children to a carnival or anywhere there are large crowds of people, it is important for parents to be aware of the dangers that may be lurking. While background checks can provide some protection, predators who do not have criminal records can still fall through the cracks.