Policy clarifies school limits for sex offenders

Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON — A change in visitation policy is “preventive,” Trenton Public Schools Superintendent Larry Leapley said, and not an invitation for registered sex offenders to frequent the district’s classrooms.

“It’s more of a situation where we don’t want to have to be reactive,” Leapley said. “We want our policy sitting there, saying that this is what will transpire.”

During its regular meeting Monday, Feb. 27 the Trenton Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a policy update that defined the limitations for registered sex offenders. If someone convicted of a sexual crime is either the parent or guardian of a student, any access allowed is limited under the new policy.

“If there were a legal challenge, and the judge says they didn’t give up their parental rights, we’re setting up limitations,” Leapley said.

Leapley and School Board President Mike Hawkins said there was some confusion leading up to last week’s second reading and approval. There was concern that the policy would allow greater freedoms to sex offenders who should be prohibited from school activities.

“Some people questioned if we were allowing this,” Hawkins, a Trenton Police officer, said. “It actually gives us more control, not less. If there’s a loophole, if somebody has to be in the district, we have some control.”

The revised policy clearly states that parents or guardians who are registered sex offenders may be allowed on campus, “at the discretion and under the direction of the principal.” Further, the policy requires that permission must be obtained prior to an event, the offender is not allowed on campus during school hours, and must have an approved escort, among other conditions.

The policy was drafted by the Michigan Association of School Boards for adoption by local districts, and addresses offenders who are parents or guardians of enrolled students. The wording as suggested does not provide access rights to any offenders who are prohibited from contact with their children, nor does it supercede local, state or court-ordered guidelines.

“This gives us the right to put limitations on what they can do,” Leapley said.

While allowing some parental presence on campus, Hawkins said no additional permissions granted.

“If they legally cannot be there, they will not be there,” Hawkins said “If they can, we still have some control.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)