WASHINGTON, July 15, 2014 – Theme parks are about as American as apple pie. Big or small, riding roller coasters and getting doused are huge summer pastimes. But lets be honest, they can also be very dangerous places.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Florida), a former Attorney for Disney World, is proposing legislation that would amend the Polygraph Act of 1988 following a six-month investigative report by CNN that revealed a number of child sex predators working in the parks.
Ross’ amendment would give businesses that “cater to children” the ability to use polygraph as a pre-employment screening tool.
“Amends the “Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 to exempt from its prohibition against lie detector use the employers of prospective employees who care for or supervise or interact with unsupervised children on a frequent basis.
Requires such prospective employees to be given reasonable written notice of the date, time, and location of the polygraph test and of their right to consult with legal counsel or an employee representative before each phase of the test.”
The Act, S.1904, Sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was introduced on December 1, 1987 and the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. The act became Public Law (H.RES.295, S.1904, No: 100-347) on June 27, 1988.
Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 – Prohibits any employer from: (1) requiring or suggesting that an employee or prospective employee take a lie detector test; (2) using lie detector test results; or (3) taking employment action against an employee or prospective employee who refuses to take a lie detector test or institutes or testifies in a proceeding under or related to this Act.
A review of that bill shows previous amendments were passed to exempt security services industry H.AMDT.482 (passed), federally regulated banks and securities industries H.AMDT.483 (failed), nursing homes H.AMDT.481 (failed), persons working in person residences H.AMDT.489 (failed).
There have been numerous debates over the use of the polygraph as an employment screening tool.
One debate circles the civil liabilities of the applicants.
The other has been ongoing debate as to the accuracy and validity of the polygraph, or lie detector test. Criminals and sociopaths, for example, are adept at “beating” the machine.
Its best use may not be in actually determine who is and who is not lying, but to act as a deterrent to persons from applying if they fear the results of the test.
The argument that the use of the polygraph may very well be a liability of the company if they fail to hire someone that fails the test, if they choose to not administer the test to someone later convicted of the crime, or the reliability of the person administering the test comes under question.
CNN’s investigative story on pedophiles working in theme parks is frightening. They are very careful to inform that no instance of any of the persons they uncovered were charged with acting inappropriately to a child in the park.
A total of 32 person uncovered, five from Universal Studios, two from Sea World, the rest from Disney World. One person arrested, a service manager, supervised ride repairs was arrested in a sting, when he showed up to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex.
The manager says that his intent was not to have sex, but to warn the girl that what she was doing is dangerous. A task best left for the police.
While the maintenance person had little contact with the children, another person, identified as Allen Treaster (age 40) who worked on the Toy Story ride and who described himself on line as a “Big Teddy Bear”.
He worked as a concierge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Previous jobs included working on the all busy Toy Story ride.
Horrifically, Treaster confesses to having had sex with a teenage boy just a few weeks prior to his latest arrest. He drove from Florida to Georgia to meet the boy, taking him to a hotel for the encounter. When asked, once he saw the boy and knew he was a minor, when the boy revealed to him that he was a minor, if he still wanted to have sex with him.
Video tapes reveal (from CNN):
The undercover detective asked Treaster, “OK and when did you find out how old he was?”
“Honestly, I found out before I met him, but you know,” Treaster said.
“So you still went for that, to have sex with him, knowing he was 15 years old?” the detective asked.
“Yes,” Treaster said.
Disney spokesperson Jacquee Wahler responded to CNN that “the number reported by CNN represent one-one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period.”
International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children Ernie Allen Co Founder, and president for every one caught there are still 1000s out there, stating “This is a real threat.”
“There is more that Disney can do,” Allen says. “There is more that everyone can do.”
Each of the Theme Parks states that they all conduct thorough background checks, but that will only reveal if someone has been caught and as Allen tells CNN, only the dumb ones are caught.
Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Florida, says that the answer to uncovering sexual predators before the first day at works is a polygraph test used as part of the employment process.
“Anyone that works around children, whether it’s a church, in the nursery, or whether it’s Disney or any of our other theme parks, we should be able to give a polygraph examination to them,” Judd told CNN.
Congress, citing privacy and civil liberties issues, has made it illegal for most private companies to polygraph employees. Polygraph’s are usually not admissible in court, and while they are not foolproof they are “telling.”
It may be that they can be used as a deterrent, along with clear, strong language that states if you are a child predator, criminal, we will find out and fire you and assist in your prosecution if requested.
Rep. Ross is on CNN Anderson Cooper 360 tonight at 8:00pm, est. and CDN will be watching the development of this Civil Liberties versus Child Protection debate.