Disney World may seem less like “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” as results from child sex stings, that have been underway since 2006, have become public. Reports Tuesday related that thirty five members of the Magical Kingdom’s staff, along with some from Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, have been arrested for their involvement in meeting minors for sex and for possessing child pornography.
Of the staffers arrested, 32 were found guilty, eight not-guilty, and two have not yet entered their pleas. Many of them were caught in the act through child sex stings. The accused thought that they were going off to meet a minor for sexual contact, but instead were met by undercover detectives. One of the staffers who had been arrested, Robert Kingsolver, was “busted for allegedly trying to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex.” Kingsolver told the press, “My life is ruined. My family’s life is ruined. My kids’ life is ruined. I’ve devastated my parents because of bad judgment.”
Disney defended their pre-screening process and said that not only is their employment pre-screening extensive but it is also ongoing. Employees receive intermittent background checks just as they did when they applied.
While the press seems to point a harsh finger in the theme park’s direction, perhaps connoting some sort of negligence on their part, it seems that the cases logged did not involve minors who were visiting the parks. Only two cases, which were possession of child pornography cases, occurred on theme park premises.
To further their defense, Disney stated that:
The numbers reported by CNN represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period. We continue to work closely with law enforcement and organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as we constantly strengthen our efforts.
Despite these defenses from the theme park, the president of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, Ernie Allen added that although there were small numbers found on theme park premises for these crimes, the results should not be dismissed. Awareness is called for and
should signal to all of us that this is a real threat. It's a threat to Disney, it's a threat to a lot of companies and a lot of settings because these offenders will attempt to defeat the barriers that you put in place that deny them access to children.
Allen related to the press that he feels Disney does work very hard at safeguarding visitors and their reputation, and is more than aware of its position as “a magnet that is sort of America's symbol for children” which also attract predators. However, because of the theme park’s magnetism, the seeking out and arrest of such predators must continue. Allen added, that it's important to remember that “there is that interest present, that there are people who have sexual interest in children, and will be at risk of offending against a real child."