Wednesday, February 28, 2018

SB 26 will ban juvenile registrants they deem moderate or high risk from attending public schools

Whereas many states are lessening restrictions on juvenile offenders, Alabama is still going the other way.

Bill would change school reporting, enrollment for juvenile sex offenders
By Mary Sell Montgomery Bureau Feb 28, 2018

MONTGOMERY — Juvenile sex offenders who are considered high or moderate risks for repeating such crimes would not be allowed to attend traditional public schools under proposed legislation in the Statehouse.

Senate Bill 26 also would require the State Board of Education to develop by next year a policy for the supervision and monitoring of juvenile sex offender students considered by courts to be low risk for offending again.

“Essentially, we’re trying to give those who are responsible for the care of children all the information that they need,” bill sponsor Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, said Tuesday. “We had a situation in my district where that was not done.”

Senate Bill 26 has passed in the Senate. It is on the agenda Thursday in the House Education Policy Committee. It’s unclear how much money finding alternative education options for juvenile offenders could cost local school districts.

Chambliss’ bill says a moderate- or high-risk juvenile sex offender “poses a potential threat to the safety of other students and teachers that is detrimental to the educational process and not in the best interests of the other students.”

The school system would have to assist parents and guardians to determine “appropriate alternative educational placement.”

“They would have to have an alternative-type school, a virtual school, home school, that sort of thing,” Chambliss said.

As of January, there were 1,305 juvenile sex offenders in the state, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Locally, there were 22 in Morgan County, 16 in Limestone County and 12 in Lawrence County.

The data is not broken down by offenders’ risk levels.

Information about how many of those offenders might be enrolled in public school wasn’t available Tuesday.

Juvenile offenders who are deemed by the court a high risk to offend again are put on the state’s public registry of sex offenders.

The bill also requires that school superintendents and school board members be notified when a low-risk offender is enrolled in a system. Chambliss said the bill may be amended to remove school board members from the notification.

“We’ve gotten some pushback on that,” he said.

Current law only requires principals to be notified and information shared with teachers and staff with supervision over the juvenile.

Alabama State Department of Education spokesman Michael Sibley said the department is watching the legislation.

“We are monitoring the bill, and if enacted, will work to develop a model policy to ensure a safe and secure environment for all students and staff, as the law instructs, to be implemented by (local systems) with regard to juvenile sex offenders in our school settings,” Sibley said.

Offenders also would be required to notify local law enforcement if they change school systems. Failure to do so would be a Class C felony.

Also on Thursday’s Education Policy agenda is House Bill 447. It creates an Alabama Task Force on School Safety and Security that would make recommendations annually to the Legislature. Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is the bill sponsor.

A similar task force existed a few years ago.

“They’ll meet annually to see if we have any gaps, if any states have best practices that we want to incorporate and to make sure we’re still on the right track,” Collins said Tuesday.

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