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Sex offender policy adopted: School district writes guidelines for addressing sensitive issue

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District's Board of Education recently approved a new policy that bans sex offenders from all district property except under certain authorized circumstances, like voting or attending a public meeting outside of school hours.

The policy is one of the first of its kind in Alaska. Joseph Reeves, associate executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, said he expects other districts to follow the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District's lead.

"I know of no other district that has as complete a policy as the one adopted by (the Kenai district)," he said.

Dave Jones, assistant superintendent who is also on the board's policy committee, said the district has been working on this policy for more than a year to address procedures for parent/guardian sex offenders who want to have access to their children on school property.

"Last year during the school year we had a few situations were we found we had parents of children who attend our schools who were on the sex offenders list," Jones said.

In some instances the parent sex offenders came forward themselves and in others, parents alerted the district of other parents or guardians that are registered sex offenders.

"This is the situation I'm in, I still want to be a parent to my child, how do I handle this?" he said, referencing what parent sex offenders asked the district.

Jones said that after the district spoke with administrators, legal counsel and parole officers it decided to write its own policy on sex offenders' access and ability to access district schools to have something in place to handle a situation when it arises.

"It doesn't happen that often or we don't run into that often, but it was an area that we thought we needed to address and we addressed it," he said.

The policy prohibits parent sex offenders from being on school grounds with the same conditions as other sex offenders, except parent sex offenders are allowed to pick up their children at school, attend parent-teacher conferences or be at school for other special circumstances if written approval is given by the school administrator. Under all of these instances the district superintendent or school administrator give prior approval for the parent to be on campus.

For example, a parent/guardian sex offender is only allowed to transport his/her own children and will be assigned an escort while on district property.

Sex offenders are also prohibited from communicating electronically or attempting to communicate electronically with any Kenai Peninsula Borough School District student, including online messaging, as well as by calling or text messaging.

Parent sex offenders may not communicate electronically with students that are not their own children while they are on district property.

There's also a section on student sex offenders, which says school administration will create a plan for handling them as well as placing them appropriately in classes so as not to compromise the safety or health of other students.

"We now have an ability to say to people, we have procedures in place to handle this to make sure the safety of the kids in our schools is paramount. This gives us the ability to put protections for children in place," he said.

It is uncertain if the policy would prohibit parent sex offenders from participating in such groups as the Parent Teacher Association. Jones said the school board had no discussion on that topic.

According to the new policy, the restrictions apply to people who have been convicted of a sex offense in Alaska or in another state, or by federal law, and who are required to register as a sex offender. It also applies to individuals convicted of child kidnapping who are required to register on the Alaska Department of Public Safety Sex Offender/Child Kidnapper Central Registry.

But the onus does not fall on the district for seeking out sex offenders or using the registries to determining the presence of sex offenders in the community.

"This policy shall apply when district or school administrators are actually aware that a person in question is on the registry," the policy states.

A search of the Alaska Kidnapper/Child Kidnapper Registry found there are 90 registered sex offenders or kidnappers in the Central Kenai Peninsula towns of Kasilof, Kenai, Nikiski, Ninilchik, Soldotna and Sterling.

While the Peninsula district may be a leader in Alaska, districts around the nation have approved similar policies restricting sex offenders on their campuses.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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