October 12, 2014

Checking In: School districts developing new policies to track sex offenders on campus

Another useless time consuming rule, how many school personnel will be available to monitor or travel with sex offenders who are picking up their children when school starts and gets out daily. How is it that people who lack the ability to think get in high places?
10-11-2014 Alabama:

Calhoun County schools will find it easier to exclude sex offenders from school grounds and events after the adoption last week of a policy covering what some felt was a gap in the law.

The new policy requires offenders to notify school officials in writing before they try to enter any campus. It's stricter than required by a state law amended in April that does the same thing. The amended law gives Alabama schools the freedom to institute their own policies to identify and track offenders.

“There’s a big misconception” about the policy change, said Randy Reaves, safety and security director for Calhoun County schools. “People think we’re letting them in.”

But before Gov. Bentley approved the amendment to sex offender laws in April, Reaves said there was no way for schools to know who was on campus.

“Sex offenders didn’t even have to let us know who they were,” said Reaves.

Under Alabama law, a registered sex offender cannot live or work within 2,000 feet of a school or childcare facility. Sex offenders are not permitted to loiter within 500 feet of these areas, either.

But the law said they weren’t loitering if they had a “legitimate purpose” for being on school property, like picking up a child or grandchild attending that school.

Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, who sponsored the amendment, said he felt the law needed clarification.

“Our school systems want to have some mechanism in place that says sex offenders have to check with them so they know,” said Hurst.

Under the amended law, sex offenders convicted of a crime against a minor must notify a designated school official before entering grounds or attending a function, such as a football game or class play. Entering without prior notification is a felony.

Upon arrival, the offender must report to the “designee” and follow any procedures established by the school to track the offender while he or she is on campus.

Eric Mackey, director of the group School Superintendents of Alabama, said the new amendment “greatly limits what a sex offender can do on school grounds.”

He said that “schools can monitor these people, where they couldn’t before.” He acknowledged that the situation the amendment specifically applies to — that of a sex offender, convicted of a crime against a minor, who has a child in school whom they’re allowed to see— is not widespread.

“We’re talking an extremely limited population,” Mackey said. “You’re dealing with less than 10 family situations in the entire state.”

Mackey also said he believes there are no such situations in Calhoun County.

Sending a strong message

But Calhoun County Schools’ new policy, drafted with help from the district attorney’s office, takes no chances.

Reaves said the policy requires all registered sex offenders — regardless of whether they committed a crime against minors — to notify him in writing 14 days before any event they wish to attend. They’ll do this via a form available from the Sheriff’s Office.

If Reaves approves the request, he’ll forward it to the school’s principal, who will choose the applicant’s designee.

It’s the offender’s responsibility to contact that designee to set up a time and place to meet on school grounds.

“We’re simply doing what we were mandated by law to do,” said Reaves.

“Did we make our policy a little more stringent? Yes,” he said. “But that’s to make sure they’re abiding by it and we’re not letting sex offenders on campus.”

Mackey thinks the school board’s move was a smart one: it sends a strong message to the community.

“There could be one of these situations next year,” he said. “This shows that the board is serious about controlling any sex offender movement near campuses.”

Roy Bennett, Oxford City Schools’ student services coordinator, says the system doesn’t have a policy in place yet. “We’re going to follow state law” in the meantime, he said.

Bennett also said that keeping track of sex offenders on school grounds has “never been a big issue” at Oxford schools. “I don’t know of any time it’s ever been a problem,” he said.

Anniston schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt said his school system has a policy, but he’s not familiar with it. He expects it to change anyway, given the recent state law amendment.

“We’re waiting for a model policy from the Alabama Association of School Boards,” Douthitt said. Adopting a tweaked model policy from the state association saves the school system time and money, because it doesn’t have to work through its board of attorneys, he said.

Jacksonville’s school system doesn’t have a policy on sex offenders yet, but Superintendent Jon Campbell said the district is creating one now.

“Whatever policy we choose will have better control over who is in our system,” said Campbell, who mentioned using the county school board’s new policy as a model.

“We’ll also be working with our attorney to make sure the policy will stand up in court,” he said.

Efforts to reachPiedmont City Schools Superintendent Matt Akin this week for comment on the system’s sex offender policy were unsuccessful. ,,Source.. by Zach Tyler

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