July 18, 2012

Fairfax Co. to move school bus stops away from sex offenders

7-18-2012 Virginia:

Fairfax County will move some bus stops away from the homes of convicted sex offenders but may have no choice but to leave some near offenders' homes.

Public school officials have decided to change their school bus policy and move bus stops away from predators' homes when the stop can be relocated to another safe traffic area, which is not always the case, school officials acknowledged at a meeting Monday.

Parents aren't typically notified when a registered sex offender is living by their child's bus stop, said Dean Tistadt, chief operating officer of facilities and transportation services for Fairfax County Public Schools. Still, the school system receives a half-dozen complaints each year.

Tistadt told The Washington Examiner that he doesn't know how many bus stops are within close distance of sex offenders' residences. "But if there are 470 registered sex offenders in the county, I can imagine there are a real number near bus stops," he said, noting how large and widespread the school bus network is.

Fairfax County Public Schools operates 1,520 school buses that transport about 110,000 students to and from school every day on routes covering the county's 399 square miles.

Fred Ellis, the schools' director of safety and security, said sex offenders are spread out "in every part of our community, quite frankly."

In February, a 15-year-old girl was sexually molested while walking to catch her school bus near the intersection of Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive. She told police she had seen the man before in the bushes near the bus stop.

Springfield District school board member Elizabeth Schultz said she would like to see increased communication with parents and staff at schools when potentially dangerous offenders move near bus stops and schools.

Ellis said that advertising their presence could be illegal, if construed as harassing the registered offenders.

A spokesman for Arlington County Public Schools said they rarely detect sex offenders living near bus stops but handle the situation on a case-by-case basis. Alexandria City Public Schools reviews its bus stops for safety annually and when situations arise but don't have a policy addressing the distance of a bus stop from a sex offender's residence. ..Source.. by Lisa Gartner

No comments: