Reported by Loretta Boniti
December 12, 2006
It's the time of year when kids are hoping to meet Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas. But what if that Santa is a registered sex offender?
That is exactly what happened in a Madison County Elementary School last year--a paroled offender volunteered as Santa. Now state leaders are looking to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Tuesday, the Virginia Crime Commission gave their backing to legislation that will ban all sex offenders from school property during any school hours.
The bill is being carried by local delegate Rob Bell. Bell told the commission that even though this bill may be inconvenient for offenders who happen to also be parents, he figures it is better to be safe than sorry.
"The sex offender does not come on to the property in the guise of volunteers, they're not visiting...they're not just coming in to the classrooms. So this would be an absolute ban. It would say, 'you cannot come on school property if you are a violent sex offender.' If it happened three months ago, three years ago, 10 years ago--you just can't do it," explained 58th District Delegate Rob Bell (R).
Under this proposed bill, offenders who are parents could petition the courts to be allowed on school grounds for special circumstances and after school hours. Offenders could be on grounds for other events held on school property.
In addition, the crime commission also gave their support to proposed sex offender bills aimed at keeping nursing homes safe for residents and employees. The commission mandated that nursing home employees check within 72 hours whether new residents are offenders and inform new residents of how to check the registry to find out where sex offenders live. The bills would also increase penalties for those who lie about being an offender when applying to work at a nursing home or assisted living facility.