It remains unclear whether convicted sex offenders can attend athletic events and other functions at Ohio Valley schools, as representatives of most local districts declined to comment.
Smith’s comments came in response to a news report about school officials around the country debating whether a registered sex offender should be allowed to attend athletic events and other school functions in which the offender’s children are participating.
“There is nothing in the West Virginia Sex Offender Registry guidelines that forbids a sex offender from being on school grounds,” Smith said.
He said there is a provision in the probation/parole section of the registry that says, as a condition of probation or parole, a sexual predator cannot establish residence or accept employment within 1,000 feet of a school.
“If there is going to be any additional restrictions on whether a sex offender could be on school property, that would have to be local school board policy unless the Legislature changes the law,” Smith said.
Smith also noted there is no legal distinction between sex offenses against adults and those against children — but there should be.
“I think the sex offender registry should make a distinction between people who offended against children as opposed to those who offended against adults,” he said. “The reason is people who are sexually attracted to children pose a greater risk of re-offending against children.”
“A small percentage of sexual offenders are deemed by the judge to be sexual predators,” he added.
He said a sexual predator is “a person who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory, sexually violent offenses.”
“I believe the court could make it a requirement of probation or parole that a person cannot be on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility, if they deemed it necessary,” he added.
Most school officials on both sides of the Ohio River were unable to comment on the subject Wednesday pending further investigation, but one administrator did talk about the subject.
George Krelis, deputy superintendent of Ohio County Schools, said his district requires background checks for chaperones and volunteers participating in school activities; however, there is no policy in place concerning a convicted sex offender’s right to attend programs or athletic events.
“The board of education approves the names of chaperones and volunteers, and no registered sex offender would be permitted to serve in that capacity,” Krelis said. ’We are going to investigate how to determine if parents who have been convicted of sex offenses can participate in activities of their own children.”
He said the school district, which has about 5,400 students attending classes in 13 schools, receives a list of registered sex offenders from the West Virginia State Police.