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Tuesday’s arrests show we must always be vigilant to protect our kids

Tuesday was a horrible day for people many youngsters see as role models. On Tuesday afternoon, Felipe Vazquez, a star pitcher for Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates, was arrested and charged with (among other things) possession of child pornography and statutory sexual assault.

On Tuesday evening, Mike Folmer, a 13-year state senator in Pennsylvania, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.

To be clear, at this point both men are only accused of these crimes. In this country, in the eyes of the law, you are innocent until proven guilty. These men deserve due process just like anyone else.

But it doesn’t make the accusations any less vile and sickening.

As one of the game’s most talented pitchers, Vazquez was a highly sought-after commodity a few weeks ago by many teams during baseball’s trading deadline. He was among the game’s brightest rising stars with a seemingly fun and free personality, one that, coupled with his immense talent, made him a fan favorite.

But according to police, Vazquez, with all his fame and fortune, admitted to driving to a teen girl’s suburban Pittsburgh home and attempting to have sex with her. Police said Vazquez received photos of the teen performing a sex act and sent the teen photos and videos of him performing a sex act. Vazquez also faces child sex crime charges in Florida, where he lives during the offseason.

As the chair of the Senate State Government Committee, Folmer had a very influential position politically, as he was by all accounts working on a number of election reform bills. But the attorney general’s office says Folmer chose to upload and receive suspected child porn through the social media site Tumblr.

Both men have violated the trust the public placed in them.

Not that we should have needed such reminders, but let it serve as one. Those of us who are trusted to care for kids, whether our own or the children of others, must always be vigilant. We must always be looking for those who show signs of building trust and rapport with youngsters, only to later violate it in the most disgusting way imaginable.

And while background checks for those who will be around kids is a no-brainer, it does not mean we can let our guard down. Until these charges came to light, background checks on both would have come up clean — at least as far as child abuse is concerned.

May the sad examples of these two men demonstrate that, while strides are made every day, no system is perfect, the work of protecting the innocence of our children is never done and the process can always be made better.

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