Disability Law

Should ADA protections apply to pedophiles?

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Acknowledging that pedophilia is a mental disorder—and removing barriers for treatment—would better protect children, says an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Law.

Writing for the New York Times’ opinion section, Margo Kaplan notes that the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act exclude people with pedophilia, a DSM-defined disorder, from protection related to the condition. If pedophiles reach out for help, Kaplan writes, or seek a reasonable accommodation for treatment, they can lose their jobs.

“One can live with pedophilia and not act on it,” Kaplan writes. “Isolating individuals from appropriate employment and treatment only increases their risk of committing a crime.”

According to her Oct. 5 piece, by some estimates less than 1 percent of the adult male population is attracted to prepubescent children. (Kaplan did not provide information on female pedophiles.)

She also writes that pedophilia may be neurological. Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left handed or ambidextrous, the piece states, and studies have shown that male pedophiles on average have lower scores on visual-spatial and verbal memory tests.

“It stands to reason that a pedophile should not be hired as a grade-school teacher,” Kaplan writes, mentioning the “not otherwise qualified” exemptions included in the ADA. “This is why employers don’t have to hire blind bus drivers or mentally unstable security guards.”

She also asserts that removing the ADA’s pedophilia exclusion would not undermine child abuse cases, or make it easier for defendants to plead an insanity defense.

“Arguing for the rights of scorned and misunderstood groups is never popular, particularly when they are associated with real harm,” Kaplan writes. “But the fact that pedophilia is so despised is precisely why our responses to it, in criminal justice and mental health, have been so inconsistent and counterproductive.”

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