Respecting rights and protecting kids

Posted: Friday, December 17, 2010

The Kenai Peninsula School Board and district administrators tackled a tough situation earlier this month when they approved a new policy creating campus visitation rules for sex offenders who also are parents.

A year in the making, the policy sets clear and strict parameters that allow a convicted offender to still tend to his or her child on school grounds. The policy allows these parents to, for example, attend parent-teacher conferences or come to school for other functions -- with written permission from a school administrator, and accompanied by an escort.

Certainly there are some folks out there who will be repelled by this idea. They would prefer that anyone who's committed a sex crime, especially against a child, be locked up for good, or at least never allowed near any youngster ever again.

That's not the law, however. Someone convicted of a sex crime does not automatically give up their parental rights or responsibilities.

But to us what is more important is that this new policy looks out for the right of a child to have his or her parent near, if that's what the child wants and needs.

A child wants a parent in the audience at their first band, or orchestra, or choir concert. When a child sees all the other kids' parents at open school nights, they want their parent there, too.

This policy allows some sense of normalcy for those children. That's an important consideration.

Joseph Reeves, associate executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, called the Kenai policy the most comprehensive in the state. He said this week that the policy strikes a good balance between the rights of parents and the rights and security of all children in school. He said the policy will become a template his organization will recommend to other Alaska school districts that may want to consider adopting policies of their own.

We commend our school leaders for having the courage to address this issue, and being the first in the state to do so. That shows leadership.

In short: Adopting a new policy on school visitation rules for sex offender parents strikes the right balance between parent rights and protection of students.

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