Wichita Library considers sex offender checks for program presenters

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Public Library is considering a policy that would require sex offender checks for people wanting to become a program presenter.

It’s been a hot button topic and some said stems from the controversy surrounding the ‘Say YAAAS To Reading’ drag queen event last year.

Say YAAAS to Reading Event on September 26, 2018

Library officials have publicly confirmed that the proposed background check policy is not a direct result of the drag queen reading event.

According to past meeting documents, the idea came from Derby pastor Craig Coffey earlier this year when he spoke against such events at a meeting.

Coffey also spoke at Tuesday’s (Aug. 20) meeting.

“I will speak directly to this proposed policy as it pertains to the drag queen story hour or an overture from the LGBTQ community to have access to our children,” said Coffee. “My concerns are heightened.”

Other residents who spoke focused on the safety of children from all offenders, not just those who commit sex crimes.

“Many of these pleas coming from the community have been to protect our children from sex offenders at library programs,” said Joan Phillips, Wichita resident.

Other speakers mentioned alleged sex crimes that have happened at libraries across the nation, as well as those happening in Wichita.

Rexy Que urged the board to consider more in-depth checks.

“With getting information from the sex offender registry check, that won’t give you information about other violent crimes like aggravated robbery or kidnapping,” said Que. “Those types of things are in there.”

Many in the LGBTQ community are speaking out about the policy and said they feel targeted.

Brad Thomison also known as drag queen, “Divinity Masters” participated in the drag queen event last year and said the checks need to be fair.

Thomison said as long as the library is not singling out people based on a certain orientation, then he believes background checks could help protect library visitors.

“We know we wouldn’t stand for folks if they had to go through an extra step or barrier based on race or based on gender,” said Thomison. “So, making the assumption of people of a certain sexual orientation should have to go through an extra check would be unfair. You’re representing the city, you’re representing an institution, so it’s important to be reputable and to be able to back up what you do with your reputation.”

The board of directors went back and forth about certain language within the proposed policy.

The board did not vote on the policy after president, Kevin McWhorter brought forward a substitute motion to delay the vote so that language in the proposal could be reviewed again.

McWhorter and other library officials would not comment on-camera about the background check policy but said the board would take another look at September’s meeting.

KSN has also reached out to library officials through voicemail and e-mail for comment.

For the Wichita Public Library Board of Directors meeting minutes or for more information, click here.

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