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Should Clowns, Santa Clauses & All Other Children’s Entertainers Be Licensed?

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By HVnews on May 25, 2011

In the midst of the media’s coverage of a Canadian woman’s efforts to make the licensing of child entertainers mandatory, we question whether this policy could halt child abuse in the United States.

According to The Toronto Star, Toronto woman Linda Beaudoin is leading a campaign for legislation to make it mandatory for child entertainers like Santa Claus impersonators and clowns to get background criminal checks and obtain licenses in order to work.

The Toronto Star quoted Beaudoin as saying: “Exotic dancers need a permit; so do massage therapists. So why not children’s entertainers?”

Beaudoin was abused at the age of 15 and has also worked as a clown, The Star reports.

In the United States, there have been several high-profile cases of child entertainers convicted of child abuse.

In 1994, John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection after being convicted of the rape and murder of 33 teenage boys and young males between 1972 and 1978. Gacy was known as the “Killer Clown” because he worked as a clown under the name “Pogo the Clown.”

The Parents for Megan’s Law website lists seven incidents from 2000 to 2007 of Disney World characters, clowns and Santa Clauses convicted of child pornography and child abuse.

California’s Megan’s Law requires all sex offenders to register with local law enforcement. In 2004, it was expanded to require that all information on sex offenders be available to the public online, according to the official website.

Yet, having a way to verify if an employee has been previously convicted of sexual abuse hasn’t stopped some from working as child entertainers.

In 2005, it was discovered that “Marty the Clown,” who had worked at the San Diego Gay Pride festival’s children garden for years, was a sex offender, according to 10news.com.

This case could be a strong argument for licensing child entertainers, as it shows that even if parents perform background checks before hiring a clown, corporations and even planners might not.

Another argument in favor of licensing could be based on income. According to simplyhired.com, the average salary for a clown is $38,000, while for a magician its $41,000. These salaries are about as high as other licensed professionals who work with children such as teachers ($43,000) and child care ($40,000). Simplyhired.com bases these salaries off of the job listings on the websites that match the search criteria, in this case “clowns,” “magicians,” “teachers” and “child care.”

But still, some insist that licensing is not necessary.

In Toronto, where Beaudoin is fighting for licensing legislation, Andrea Calver, coordinator for Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, thinks it isn’t necessary. “The difference between those working at daycares and as children’s entertainers is that entertainers wouldn’t be left alone with kids. There would be parental supervision,” she said.

What do you think? Should all children’s entertainers be required to obtain a license?

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