Long before you host any event, take the time to do the following for your group:
Have plans and policies in place regarding how your group intends to handle various situations that may come up during your event.
Event organizers should make their own list and covenant of what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior that may occur at the event as well as what may be revealed in the background checks with specific respects to their event and community needs.
It is even more important to stick to your established rules and make said rules clear to the staff as well as the event attendees.
Questions to ask yourself and your group as you establish your boundaries and protocols:
If a person is accused of inappropriate behavior to your staff how do you proceed?
How do you fairly deal with all parties involved to get to the heart of what has truly transpired?
What degrees of offense are acceptable to your group?
What solutions do you have in place?
At what point and for what offense do you have a no tolerance policy?
In what situations do you ask people to go separate ways?
When is it deemed appropriate to ask someone to leave the event?
At what point do you involve the police?
None of the scenarios used to come up with contingency plans are pleasant, but they are necessary. It is better to have these things figured out before hand with policies in place than fumbling to figure it all out in the heat of the moment.
As an event organizer you are taking on the responsibility to keep your community safe for the duration of the event. Part of that is being prepared for any bad or uncomfortable situation that may arise.
A great place to begin to educate yourself is by researching current federal, state and city laws regarding the rights of Sex Offenders. Knowing your rights and what you can and can not do legally will ease your mind and help you establish what may be necessary boundaries for your event.
The benefits of event pre-registration:
If the event you are hosting requires or offers pre-registration this gives you a great advantage.
As you have the registrant’s name and most likely their home address you can use those things to conduct your own sex offender background checks.
Screening event registrants can be a bit time-consuming but will prove useful to find if you have event applicants who are not legally allowed to attend your event or are someone whom by your community standards you will not allow to attend your event.
These are the best places to start when conducting basic searches for Sexual Predators and Offenders.
Sex Offender Registry:
In 1994 the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Act was put into action. This required states to implement a sex-offender registration program by sex offenders being required to register their address with local law enforcement. In 1996 the Wetterling act was amended by Megan’s Law, which in turn made the registered information available to the public.
Make sure to run all registrants through the Sex Offender Registries.
Federal Sexual Offender Registry Sites:
These will show you photos of the sex offender; list the offenses that they have been convicted of, current address among other info. You can also search for offenders by region.
State Sex Offender Registries:
You can access these via the National Sex Offender Registry website, or by doing a general search for the Sex Offender Registry for the desired State.
It may be a good idea to search in your state (or state listed as current address for person wishing to attend your event) as well as utilizing the National Sex Offender Registry.
I have found that sometimes people don’t always show up on the National Registry but will, appear on the State Registries. I think that this is due to the charges of the person faces as sometimes it will be a Federal issue, sometimes is a matter for the state to handle.
When searching by State Sex Offender Registries use your own discretion on which State Searches to utilize per your location and event needs.
In some states, registered Sex Offenders are NOT legally allowed to attend any event that is family oriented, other times that is only for a certain length of time as decided at the time of sentencing.
Make sure to check into your local state laws regarding Sex Offender rights in your area and educate yourself on your rights as well as the rights of Sex Offenders in your area or the area your event will be held. Check into city as well as state laws.
Google: Do not underestimate the information that you can gain on the internet with name, location and date of birth searches in general search engines.
Many times, you can locate old news articles and social networking profiles with useful information.
As a good rule of thumb, it is always a good idea by starting with a broad subject search and narrowing it down from there.
Start by searching the name, then the name and state and slowly minimize your search.
Online court documents: Some states offer free online searches of court cases and charges. Check out your state website to see if it is a service that they may offer.
You can also set up an account with PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records https://www.pacer.gov/ as a helpful background check resource.
The PACER Case Locator is a national index for U.S. district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts. It will cost you a few cents per search and documents but is very cheap, even if you were to run many names thru it.
You can always shop around for paid services that will do background checks for you. They will cost money (they can range from $20.00 to $50.00+) but will be much more encompassing for information that can be found.
Regarding Staff and Volunteers:
All active on site staff, entertainment and organizers must also pass a police background or some other official background check.
This also includes all event volunteers that will be working with children and young adults.
Require that all volunteers for young adult and child activities must be pre-registered in enough time to allow time for police or other type of thorough background check.
The requirement of this alone may be enough to deter predators from attempting to participate in Youth and Child activities.
Establish staff accountability protocol by having a staff buddy system policy in place.
Absolutely no staff member or volunteer should or will be left alone with a child or young adult at any time.