On Monday, 8 June 2015, U.S. Representative Dennis A. Ross (R-FL) held a press conference with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to promote a proposed amendment of the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act “to provide an exemption from the protections of that Act with regard to certain prospective employees whose job would include caring for or interacting with children.”
If passed, the bill, dubbed the “Protect Our Children Act,” would allow for compulsory pre-employment polygraph screening of school employees from teachers to janitors, employees of theme parks, zoos, swimming pools, day care centers, churches, and so forth. Specifically, Ross’ bill provides in relevant part:
`(g) Exemption for Certain Employers of Employees Who Care for or Interact With Unsupervised Children.-- ``(1) Exemption.--Subject to paragraph (2) and subsection (c) of section 8, this Act shall not prohibit the use of a polygraph test by any employer if the test is administered to a prospective employee-- ``(A) whose activities would involve the care or supervision of children or regular access to children who are cared for or supervised by another employee; ``(B) whose job description indicates a high probability that the prospective employee will interact with unsupervised children on a frequent basis; or ``(C) where the employer reasonably believes there is a high probability of unsupervised interaction between the prospective employee and a child on a more than incidental basis.
Subparagraph (g)(1)(c) is so broadly worded that many jobs not currently envisaged might be construed to fall under it. But even if the legislation were more strictly worded, it is a bad idea that will not protect children. There is broad consensus amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis. As retired FBI scientist and supervisory special agent Dr. Drew Richardson has observed, polygraph operators are involved in the detection of deception “to the extent that one who jumps from a tall building is involved in flying.”
Passage of Ross’ proposed amendment to the EPPA will predictably result in many innocent job applicants being falsely branded as liars, even as pedophiles seeking access to children pass the polygraph using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.
Conducting polygraph screening “for the children” doesn’t bestow any validity on this pseudoscientific methodology. Politicians who truly care about protecting children should eschew the sort of magical thinking associated with polygraphy and reject this bill. Rep. Ross’ bill currently has no co-sponsors.