Children place pinwheels in recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month at a preschool facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara. Air Force photo

San Diego is one of the best places in the world to raise a family. And if your children are into sports, music, dance, and other character-building activities, the City of San Diego offers a plethora of great programs for them to attend.

But are these programs doing everything they can to keep your kids safe from physical and sexual abuse? When you drop your kids off for class or practice, do you feel fully comfortable leaving them under the supervision of the adults in charge?

You might assume that city-funded organizations follow the same basic precautions to prevent abuse that public schools follow. But they don’t.

You might assume that these programs are required to fingerprint their staff. But they aren’t.

The city spends millions of tax dollars every year funding organizations who are working with kids. Yet the city places no requirements on these and other groups to ensure they are doing everything they can to keep kids safe.

In fact, unlike public schools, there is currently no legal requirement that City-funded organizations perform LiveScan fingerprinting on their staff, or give the staff annual training in what it means to be a mandated reporter.

What is a mandated reporter? Just about anyone who works with children is a mandated reporter, meaning that by law they must report any reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused to law enforcement.

But many staff members of city-funded organizations have never received any training in their rights and duties as a mandated reporter, and have no idea what to do if they suspect abuse. And unfortunately, there are few if any consequences for adults and organizations that ignore their duty to report child abuse.

This has got to change.

My ballot proposal, Keep Kids Safe San Diego, would close these legal loopholes and create a common-sense system for ensuring that kids are as safe as possible in city-funded programs.

If enacted, the proposal would require all organizations receiving funding from the city to follow the same rules as San Diego Unified School District when it comes to fingerprinting employees and providing the all-important mandated reporter training.

But Keep Kids Safe San Diego will go even further to protect kids, by also requiring annual child abuse prevention training, which has been shown to be effective in preventing abuse.

The proposal would also establish critical transparency and accountability requirements—enforced by the City Attorney—to help prevent child abuse cover-ups and ensure public funds aren’t supporting programs that fail to keep kids safe.

Keep Kids Safe San Diego would even give parents a way to check up on the organizations they entrust their children to. It would allow informed decision making, and put adults who work with kids on notice that all child abuse allegations will be taken seriously and handled properly.

On Wednesday the rules committee will decide whether to send this proposal to the full City Council to place the measure on next year’s ballot.

Whether you are a parent of kids taking classes in a city-funded program, or just someone who cares about the safety and well-being of children in San Diego, please voice your support for Keep Kids Safe San Diego, the kind of child abuse prevention policy all kids deserve.

Matt Valenti is a civil rights attorney and the father of two daughters.

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