Senate Bill Zeros in on Sexual Predators in After-School Programs

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA--Senate bill 68 would require instructors of after-school programs like martial arts studios to submit to background checks and provide fingerprints to weed out the bad guys.

Russell Jones is a 5th degree blackbelt with 23 years of experience in martial arts.  He's also the owner of Jones Dojang in Odessa.  He says, it's about time, "Somebody who's in a position to teach kids after school, whether it be Tae-Kwon-Do, whether it be football, it should be done right."

The Jones Dojang teaches students of all ages from elementary age to adult.  The only type of "supervision" on classes, comes from the International Tai-Kwon-Do Federation.  "They set forth standards as far as what techniques I teach and ideas about teaching them.  They don't monitor their blackbelts worldwide as far as their background check and their behavior outside of the gym," Russell explained.

With practically no one to police what goes on in classes like this, in Russell's opinion, the requirements of Senate bill 68 are right on the money, "I want to see some monitoring going on.  I want to see the people who are participating in this kind of activity, after school and teaching a martial art, a true martial art,  have some kind of a stipualtion that says they have to be good people too."

To him, having to shell out extra bucks for licensing and background checks is worth it, "In these times, with as much activity that's going on, as far as kids and predators are involved, it's important that the state intervene in this situation."

According to Russell, getting the green light from the State is like getting a seal of approval from parents.   Something every after school program should strive for, "After school is always going to be that time when parents find a good place to put their children.  If someone else doesn't have that sticker and they're afraid to get it, then what are they hiding?"

Senate bill 68 affects any after school program that lasts two hours or more per day, for kids in Pre-K to 6th grade.  Once approved, it goes into affect September 1st.