Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's Obviously Not Too Soon to Talk About Sex Offenders and School Bus Stops

School is starting soon across our land, and parents of the type that Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids refers to as “helicopter parents” are girding on their armor and preparing for battle with the massive number of potential threats to their children’s safety.

Not content to have residency restrictions in place that keep registered sex offenders often so far from schools, day-cares, and parks that they can live virtually nowhere, parents are now turning their eyes to bus stops.                                                          

When one mom in Virginia Beach, Virginia, did not get what she wanted from the school board—her daughter’s bus stop relocated due to a registrant in the neighborhood—she went to the media with her complaint and request.

This issue has been brought up as a concern not only in Virginia but also in Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, and California, to name only some. It is a jurisdictional issue, and many counties and districts include school bus stops as a “safe” area. What this means differs as well, depending on the jurisdiction. Some limit the exclusion to registrants who are on parole or probation or to those whose offenses were with children. Some go for a more shotgun approach and apply the restrictions to all on the registry for any purpose. Some do not include bus stops in the restricted areas.

With so many states—there are more than the ones named—and so many jurisdictions within states making this a priority, one would believe the problem must be significant. Just how many kids have been abducted from school bus stops by registered sex offenders—or by anyone, for that matter?

On the other hand, knowing that, according to the FBI, registered sex offenders were responsible for child abductions in less than 1% of the actual cases, and knowing that, according to several sources including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the number of actual, real abductions of children and teens for nefarious purposes averages 115 a year, I didn’t see how it could be significant.

I was not overly surprised, then, when my search engine, in spite of being prompted with several different phrases having to do with children taken from school bus stops, refused to give me anything. The closest I came was the case of Jaycee Dugard, who was taken off the street walking to a school bus stop in 1991, Brittany Locklear in 1998, taken from her own front yard waiting for the bus, and this year's abduction of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and her friend who accepted a ride in a pick-up after getting off of their school bus. There have been a few other reported attempts but no actual kidnappings that I could locate. And in two of these three cases, the perpetrators did not live close to where the abductions occurred. The identity of Brittany's killer is still unknown.

It would appear that the danger inherent in registrants living in proximity to a bus stop is minute, right up there with the danger to trick-or-treaters from registrants on Halloween.

Why do we keep trying to address problems that don’t exist? Are there no real ones that need addressing? Someone said, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Isn’t it time we listened?

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