June 22, 2011

Sex offender allowed back at Lake Michigan College

6-22-2011 Michigan:

Student had been suspended last year by college

BENTON HARBOR — A second Lake Michigan College student suspended last year for being a registered child sex offender has been allowed to take classes again.

The student was one of three men who were notified by LMC in February 2010 that they had been banned for being a child sex offender on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

Amid national media attention and public concern over the decision, LMC changed its policy to review the enrollment of such students on a case-by-case basis. The old policy automatically suspended students at all four of LMC’s campuses who were listed on the registry as child sex offenders, regardless of whether it was deemed they posed a risk.

Two of the three students filed appeals in February 2010. A student appeals committee allowed one of the students back, but did not for the student most recently accepted back.

The college has not released what its criteria is for reinstating students.

The settlement to allow the student back to LMC was finalized on Tuesday, although he has been taking classes since January.

The student contacted the ACLU of Michigan last year after the college’s original ruling. The ACLU represented the student and urged the college to look over his case again.

Miriam Aukerman, ACLU West Michigan Regional Office staff attorney, said Tuesday that a blanket ban is unfair and illegal.

Aukerman said this particular student’s crimes were for a 10-year-old offense and added that he received numerous support from friends, faculty, a therapist and his parole officer. She would not say what factors during a December investigation led to his reinstatement.

"Other colleges and universities should follow LMC’s lead and craft more carefully tailored rules that actually keep our campuses and communities safe," Aukerman said. Aukerman said it’s certainly possible that some students should be kept out depending on their individual case.

Lisa Martin, the student’s former therapist, said in a statement that the student was "devastated" when he was kicked out of school.

"He cannot change the past or undo what he did," she said. "What he can and did do is work towards becoming a different person. For him, obtaining an education was central to his plan to turn his life around. In my professional opinion, his attendance at Lake Michigan College does not present a risk. He is a positive addition to the campus, rather than a safety threat."

The issue came to light when one of the three students attempted to resister for winter classes at the Niles Bertrand Cross campus and was not allowed to enroll after he told administrators he was a convicted child sex offender. After a background check of all 4,200 students, the school suspended three who appeared on the registry.

The rule applies only to child sex offenders and does not affect sex offenders whose offense were against adults.

Although the old rule would automatically suspend the students, it essentially was like a ban from the school because child sex offenders are required to register for 25 years.

Bob Harrison, LMC’s president, said the college set new policies in place a year ago to give students a chance to return. He said he had no further comment on the issue. ..Source.. by Tom Moor

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