Should sex offenders be allowed to visit their own child at school?

Posted at 7:44 AM, Feb 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-04 00:03:28-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia lawmakers will consider a measure Tuesday that will affect parents and their children. House Bill 1366 would change state guidelines pertaining to sex offenders on school property. The measure is aimed at limiting school access for parents who are sex offenders and want to visit their child’s school.

Under current state law, registered sex offenders are allowed on school campuses if their children goes to the school and their visit is cleared with the school superintendent. However, a bill introduced by Delegate Jeff Campbell (R-Marion) would change that.

Under Campbell's bill, other parents with children at the school would be allowed to weigh in on whether or not registered sex offenders would have access to their children while on school grounds. Campbell's bill would require all sex offenders to have a hearing before being granted access to schools.

Under the proposed bill, registered sex offenders would have to use their own money to place an ad in the local newspaper publicizing a hearing date. Once the ad runs for two weeks, anyone could attend the hearing and testify against the registered sex offender. A judge would hear the arguments and rule on whether the parent would have access to the school.
Demario Jones is a registered sex offender after he said he slept with a woman who lied about her age. It happened 20 years ago, but he said he is constantly reminded of it.

"You can't get to your kids because of the public opinion instead of getting to know the person, know the facts of the case," said Jones.

Some parents told CBS 6 they believe having a public opinion is a great idea, as their main concern is the children.

"The public should have a say of who comes and who is allowed to be at the school because obviously it affects the safety of the rest of the children," said one parent.

Del. Campbell told the Virginian-Pilot that the goal is to inform the community and get additional input.

"How much more public does he want?" said Jones, "More information than they already have? More information than having our names posted on a public website that anybody can go to and pass their judgement without knowing our situation."

"The public outcry and the pressure will result in every judge in the Commonwealth denying every petition," volunteer advocate for data-driven reform of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry and Laws Mary Davye Devoy said. "This, I believe, is the true intent of HB1366, NOT because parents have a right to know."

Devoy said she feared this bill could lead to violence, if it is passed into law.

"The odds of a violent encounter in the parking lot, possibly in front of the child whose parent has filed the petition are extremely high," she said. "Imagine the bullying the child of the registered sex offender will endure between the newspaper announcements and the public hearing, this is a recipe for disaster."

The House Courts of Justice committee has passed the bill with an unanimous vote. The full House of Delegates is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday. This is a developing story.