There are some interesting stats in the following article.
Alabama schools struggle with juvenile sex offenders in classrooms
Marty Roney, Montgomery Advertiser Published 10:13 a.m. CT Feb. 22, 2018
PRATTVILLE — The parents of a young Autauga County sex crime victim want something done.
Three years ago, their daughter was victimized by a then-14-year-old boy. What happened next combines the heartache of a family trying to get back to “normal,” a young man paying his debt to society, old wounds being reopened and a bureaucratic maze of board of education meetings and potential legislative action.
Juvenile criminal cases are sealed in Alabama. For this story the Montgomery Advertiser spoke with the young girl’s family and their attorney. Facts about the case were confirmed by off-the-record sources who have knowledge of what took place. The Montgomery Advertiser does not identify victims of sex crimes. The names of the victim’s parents in this story are not used, so as not to identify the victim.
More: Where do juvenile sex offenders live in Alabama?
The young man was found guilty — or “adjudicated delinquent” in juvenile court terms — of enticing a child for immoral purposes, the victim’s parents said. They attended the hearing before Autauga County District Judge Joy Booth, who handles juvenile case in the county. At the time of the incident, their daughter was younger than 12, the parents said. There are no jury trials in juvenile court; the judge makes the decisions.
Under Alabama law, the young man is considered a sex offender.
At the time, the young man was enrolled in an Autauga County high school. In the wake of the court’s action, he was expelled from Autauga County Schools for one year, the girl’s parents said.
It was time to try and put the pieces back together.
“We really don’t know what ‘normal’ is any more,” the girl’s mother said. “We tried to put it behind us, as if that could happen. Then …”
At the start of this academic year, the victim’s older brother was an incoming freshman at an Autauga County high school. When getting ready to start school, the brother spotted the convicted juvenile sex offender at the school. The young man had re-enrolled.
“You can imagine how horrified we were,” the girl’s mother said. “We had no forewarning. No one told us this was possible at all. I mean, for our son to have to go to school every day and see the person that abused his little sister?”
Having juvenile sex offenders in the classroom is a controversial subject. Children have a right to receive an education. In fact, Alabama has a mandatory attendance law. Children younger than 16 must be enrolled in school. They can attend public, private or parochial schools, or they can be home-schooled. It is the responsibility of local boards of education to ensure that children under the age of 16 in their districts are enrolled.
The girls’ parents understand that, said Stephen Perdue, their attorney.
“What we would like to see is a change in policy statewide in dealing with juvenile sex offenders in the classroom,” he said. “We understand that they have the right to receive an education. We think a better approach would be to remove any convicted juvenile sex offender from a classroom setting.
“They can complete their education in an alternative school type setting, where they can be more closely monitored and controlled than in a school situation. But we strongly believe that convicted juvenile sex offenders should not be mainstreamed with the general enrollment.”
The numbers and the registry
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is charged with maintaining the registry of juvenile sex offenders. ALEA also maintains the statewide adult sex offender registry, which is open to public view.
As of Jan. 16, there were 1,305 juvenile sex offenders on the registry, ALEA data shows. Juvenile sex offenders fall under a classification system in Alabama, separated by the likelihood of their chances to offend again.
The lowest tier, known as "Number Ones," have been deemed by the courts as the least likely to offend again. The young man in the Autauga case was declared a Number One offender. The second- and third-tiers have been judged by the courts as being of moderate or high risk to offend again.
On the ALEA juvenile sex offender registry, information on offenders deemed at a low or moderate risk to offend again is not public. Information on juvenile sex offenders deemed as having a high risk to offend again are on the public website.Information on the site for juvenile sex offenders is basically the same as adult sex offenders. The one change for juvenile sex offenders is the address of the school the offender attends, if that is applicable.
Other information on the public website for juvenile sex offenders are:
Name: Including aliases, nicknames, ethnic names or Tribal names.
A current photograph.
Address of the school the offender attends, if applicable.
License plate number and description of vehicle the offender uses.
Criminal history of the sex offender, included what crime he was adjudicated delinquent for and why the court deemed the offender as being high risk.
The juvenile registry at ALEA tracks all juvenile sex offenders in the state. Juvenile sex offenders are younger than 18 when they were adjudicated. There is no way to determine how many of the juvenile sex offenders on the ALEA registry are enrolled in schools, but the numbers do give perspective as to how many juvenile sex offenders there are in the state.
There were 13 juvenile sex offenders listed on the registry as living in Autauga County, with Elmore County having 27 and Montgomery County having 86. Jefferson County, the state’s most populous county, had 129. Henry, Perry and Wilcox counties showed no juvenile sex offenders on the registry.
State law holds that for low-risk juvenile sex offenders, local law enforcement is required to notify where the juvenile has established a residence to the principal of the school where the juvenile sex offender will attend. The information given to the principal includes the offender’s name, living address, date of birth, and a statement of the sex offense he or she has been “adjudicated delinquent.” That information is considered confidential by the school and shared only with teachers and staff with supervision over the juvenile sex offender.
Anyone else who directly or indirectly discloses that information could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
For moderate-risk juvenile sex offenders, local law enforcement is required to provide notification of where the juvenile has established a residence to all schools and childcare facilities within three miles of the juveniles declared address. High-risk juvenile sex offenders are placed on the public sex offender registry website and local law enforcement conducts notification to the public as though the juvenile were an adult sex offender.
Even after the juvenile sex offender reaches “majority,” or 19 years old, they may still have to register for a period of 10 years from their first registration or must comply with lifetime registration depending on their offense and their age at the time of the offense.
State law also holds that juvenile sex offenders aren’t allowed to work or volunteer “at any school, childcare facility, or any other business or organization that provides service primarily to children..” but may not fall under the same living and employment restrictions as an adult sex offender once the juvenile sex offender reaches 19.
But juvenile justice advocates feel that treatment may be too harsh. The Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force published its final report of the state of the state’s juvenile justice system in December. The treatment of “Low-level juvenile sex offenses lead to long-term collateral consequences,” the report reads.
“While many states, such a Georgia, do not allow juvenile sex offense registration at all, stakeholders such as (Juvenile Probation Officers) and judges reported to the Task Force that Alabama youth who have committed juvenile sex offenses for low-level behavior are in many cases statutorily mandated to register as sex offenders long into adulthood and sometimes for the remainder of their lives. In roundtables, JPOs reported juvenile sex offense registration hinders a youth’s future prospects for gainful employment and military service, among other collateral consequences.”
And youth sex offenders are “statistically” less likely than are both adult sex offenders and juveniles who committed non-sex offenses to re-offend, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice.
“More than 90 percent of arrests for youth sex offenses represent a one-time event and will never recur,” the campaign says.
Using data from the National Center on Sexual Behavior for Youth, the campaign shows “.. that only 5 to 14 percent of juvenile sex offenders offend again (compared to approximately 40 percent of adults, as reported by the Bureau of Justice). The re-offense rate for sex offenses is substantially lower than are the recidivism rates for other adolescent delinquent behavior, which range from 8 percent to 58 percent.”
Where to from here?
State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, is sponsoring a bill that would change the way notification and enrollment of juvenile sex offenders is handled. The bill has passed out of the Senate. Chambliss’ bill would expand the pool of people notified of low-risk juvenile sex offenders to include the superintendent of education and each individual board of education member.
That’s a start, but not good enough, said Perdue, the Prattville lawyer.
“My clients went to several Autauga Board of Education meetings to express their concerns,” Perdue said. “They were told that (Superintendent) Spence (Agee) and the board members knew nothing about the situation.
“Oh, really? This is the same board and superintendent that expelled the young man for a year after he was adjudicated. We’ve been getting a runaround from the school system since this whole thing began.”
Montgomery County Schools have no policy in place addressing juvenile sex offenders in the classroom, said Scott Johnson, a spokesman for the school system. Elmore County Schools also do not have a policy on juvenile sex offenders in the classroom, said Superintendent Richard Dennis.
Autauga County Superintendent Spence Agee referred all questions to Spud Seale, the school system’s attorney. Seale expressed concerns about giving too much information, given the juvenile status of the case. He would not confirm if the Autauga County schools has a policy in place for handling juvenile sex offenders in the classroom.
“I will say this, in this particular situation, the board followed the letter of the law,” Seale said. “We were in close contact with District Attorney Randall Houston and his investigators every step of the way. R.H. said we handled this thing properly.”
And as to the treatment of the victim’s family?
“I really don’t know how to address that,” he said. “Parents and students of both parties were treated fairly and equitably.”
Seale declined to confirm if the young man in question received a one-year expulsion.
“We won’t comment on student discipline matters,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I know of no school board that will comment on student discipline matters.”
Chambliss’ bill also addresses enrollment of convicted juvenile sex offenders. It calls for the Alabama Department of Education to craft an enrollment policy that addresses a statewide framework. But the bill leaves it up to local boards of education as if juvenile sex offenders are allowed in a classroom setting.
“In my district, the schools in Autauga, Elmore and Coosa counties are very different,” he said. “Coosa County only has one school. I feel the local boards are best able to modify and fine tune any enrollment policies.
“I’m sponsoring this bill because constituents came forward and asked me to do something. As I did my initial research, and as the process has moved forward, I quickly realized just how broad and complex this problem is statewide.”