I Team 10: Sex offenders at school functions

Posted at: 01/23/2013 5:26 PM
Updated at: 01/24/2013 10:41 AM
By: Brett Davidsen

There are lots of laws designed to keep convicted sex offenders away from children. So why was a man on the state registry allowed at a school function in Albion?

The district says he is the parent of one of the students and was entitled to be there.

So what are schools doing to protect your children?

This is a tricky issue for school districts.  They want parents to be involved in their child's school life, but at the same time, they have to make safety their top priority.

When the kindergarteners at Albion Elementary School went on an October field trip to a local farm, several parents accompanied the kids. But it wasn't until last week that a mother who accompanied her child on the field trip made a discovery about another parent who was also there.
"I was looking through the sex offender registry, which I do from time to time just to see if there's anybody that I need to be made aware of, and saw his picture," she told I Team 10.

The woman asked not to be identified, fearing possible repercussions.

"I kind of freaked out a little bit, very upset."

She had a photo of the man at the field trip and compared it to the picture she saw on the sex offender registry. I Team 10 had the superintendent of the Orleans County Jail look at it, and he confirms they are the same man...a 30-year old level two sex offender. (News10NBC is not identifying him to protect his child from ridicule).

Brett Davidsen: what do you think about the fact that this person was on the field trip?
Mother: "It scares me. It scares me. You never know who's around your kids. You think your kids are safe at school."

According to the state sex offender registry, the man was convicted in 2009 of attempted rape, his victim a 15-year-old girl. The registry says he was sentenced to nine months in jail.

So this mother says she went to the school and says she was blown away when the principal told her their hands were tied.

"They said there was nothing that they could do about it, that the best they could do was keep an eye on these individuals as they come in and out of the school," she said.

We contacted the Albion Schools Superintendent Michael Bonnewell to find out if that's really the case.

In a written statement he said "We are aware that a parent on the state sex offender registry who has been designated a level two offender has attended district activities. Based on the information available to the district, neither the sex offender laws nor the conditions of the individual's discharge prevent this individual from participating in school events that are open to parents."

We went to Jody Siegle, Executive Director of the Monroe County School Boards Association, for clarification.

"As I understand it, just because someone is a sexual predator, it doesn't mean they lose their parental rights," Siegle said.

But we checked the websites of some other area school districts and quickly found written policies in Greece and Penfield that allow their superintendents to impose conditions on visiting sex offender parents.

"The law does allow a school district to set guidelines, to set parameters, to have the parent make an agreement with the superintendent about when they come on the school grounds, what they're going to do, whether or not a staff member needs to be with them, signing in when they come on campus," added Siegle.

Few would argue that a parent should be restricted from attending something like a parent-teacher conference. But an off-site field trip?

"In a situation like that, it would have to be clear that the parent that's the sex offender would only be responsible for their own child, not to have any supervisory responsibilities or in any way be providing guidance to the other children," said Siegle.

As for the sex offender in Albion, we had hoped to talk to him about all of this, to get his perspective. But that's when we learned from authorities that he's locked up in the Orleans County Jail, facing new charges of assault and for providing a false address.

While it has no specific policy regarding sex offenders, the superintendent of Albion schools says the district does have mechanisms in place to identify and monitor all visitors to their schools, including check-ins at the entrance of the school. He also says parent participation is always supervised by school employees.

If you want to know what your school might be doing, contact your district or check their website to see if their policy is posted on-line.