Proposed Policy Banning Sex Offenders From Schools in Flux

Some Vigo County School Board members are working to keep all registered sex offenders, whether or not their victim was a minor, off school property.

An initial policy introduced to the board in late February looked to bar registered sex offenders whose victims were minors from being on school property, except in limited circumstances. But some school board members are pushing to extend the policy to cover all offenders, not just those who victimized minors.

School Board member Alpa Patel said the policy should be expanded.

“Any sex offender could commit an offense against a minor, not only the ones who have been convicted of offenses against minors,” Patel said.

Patel said the wording in the policy was written narrowly to avoid potential difficulties in enforcing it. The board has not yet voted on the proposal, which is still undergoing revisions.

As an example, Patel cited an Indiana case in which an ordinance prohibiting registered sex offenders from entering public parks was challenged and upheld in a court of appeals. She said that case signals a green light for broadening the potential school board policy.

“I have consulted lawyers who advise the school board or who we use as a resource, and they said that they’re not aware of any law that has been struck down that has prohibited all registered sex offenders from entering the property,” Patel said.

School Board President Joseph Minnis, said offenders wishing to gain access to the school for legitimate reasons will be required to file an “individual access and child protection plan,” which will then be reviewed by school administrators.

“[The offenders] will have to discuss it with the principal and determine what times are appropriate for them to be there,” Minnis said. “It will operate on a case by case basis.”

Minnis said school principals will be responsible for enforcing the policy, if it is implemented, and identifying offenders as distinct from other adults on school grounds.

A third reading of the policy will take place at the board’s next meeting in two weeks.

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