New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. of Queens have asked the New York state legislature to pass a law barring sex offenders from children’s reading rooms in libraries.
In addition to proposing a City Council resolution, de Blasio and Valone sent a letter to Sheldon Silver, speaker of the Assembly, and Dean G. Skelos, majority leader of the Senate.
The two are targeting children’s rooms specifically because complete bans on sex offenders in libraries have been held unconstitutional, as LJ reported. “We suspect a law along these lines recently passed in the State Senate will face similar legal challenges,” the two said, referring to S3744-2011, which passed the Senate but died in the Assembly.
However another bill that focuses only on children’s areas of libraries already exists: called S7823-2011 and sponsored by Senator John L. Sampson, it was referred to the Senate rules committee on July 11.
Wiley Norvell, press secretary to de Blasio, told LJ, “Our goal here is to give additional authority to law enforcement, so they would not have to wait for a formal complaint from a parent to intervene. The legislation we’re calling for is about deterrence. As with similar statutes protecting playgrounds in parks, library employees would not be assigned any additional responsibility related to enforcement.”
Vallone, in the letter, also made the analogy to the current playground ban. “It is common sense that we keep sexual predators away from areas where young kids congregate,” he said. “Children’s rooms in libraries are really indoor playgrounds for growing minds.”
The move comes on the heels of a case in Queens in which a registered sex offender molested two victims at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library. According to de Blasio, a similar incident occurred at the Steinway branch last year.
The Queens library supports the idea. “It is essential that our children feel comfortable in visiting public libraries for assistance with school work and lifelong learning. We thank our legislators for doing all they can to preserve a secure environment for them,” said Thomas W. Galante, president and CEO, Queens Library.