Republican State Rep. Anthony Giarrusso of East Greenwich says he was absolutely appalled when he found out that school bus drivers and monitors across the Ocean State are not subjected to a national background check.
The issue was recently highlighted after a 35-year-old bus monitor from his district was recently arrested on child pornography charges as part of a widespread state police and FBI sting operation.
"I was shocked to know, just like a lot of my colleagues and neighbors, that we didn't already have a nationwide background check already as part of state statute. Currently, they're doing just a statewide background check. That means that something could have happened in nearby Massachusetts, 20 minutes away, in Seekonk, something could have happened there, and it would not have been caught in a statewide BCI check," Rep. Giarrusso said.
The state representative, and father of four, decided right away to take action. Giarrusso is already working to change the law to make a national background check a requirement for all school bus drivers and school bus monitors working in Rhode Island.
"It seems like a no brainer to me," he said. "This is a non-partisan issue. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to get 75 signatures on this bill. This is about protecting our future, protecting our most precious commodities, our children," he said.
Giarrusso says he would have taken interest in changing the law regardless, but to make the situation even more ironic, it was his own sons' bus monitor, Scott Samford, who was recently arrested on child pornography charges. It was this case that highlighted the loopholes in the background check system for school personnel in Rhode Island.
"My antennas are always up anyway, but in this case, I also had my 11-year-old, fifth-grade son that was on there, on that bus, with that monitor, and it wouldn't have changed the way I feel, but it just really hit home. It's also a teachable moment. You have to teach your kids that just because you think you know them doesn't mean you should get close to them, or trust them," he said.
Giarrusso says the bill will be proposed by Nov. 7, and could potentially be available for a vote as early as Jan. 7.
"It's just going to add one more layer of protection, and update the system to the modern age. With all of this technology, and the Internet, predators are changing their behavior, and we need to change and update with it," he said.