Ex-Convict Appears As Santa Claus

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

January 11, 2006

Madison County school officials are in the process of reviewing some school policies and procedures regarding visitors, this after an ex-con appeared as Santa at the Madison Primary school.

"Not with my child," said parent Marc Miller. "No. They need to do a better job than that."

That's how some parents are feeling after finding out the Santa Claus that visited their child's school was an ex-convict.

"I wouldn't want my son sitting on some Santa Claus' lap that had been convicted of sodomy and rape and all of that. I don't like it at all," said one parent.

The Parent Teacher Organization invited Robert A. Southard Jr. to appear as Santa Claus at Madison Primary for a holiday event.

School officials say they didn't know about Southard's criminal record until after his visit.

"This is an incident that did occur, said Superintendent Dr. Brenda M. Tanner. "It was with no ill intent on anyone's part, and we are working with everyone that's been involved to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Dr. Tanner said Southard was never alone with any of the children and did nothing inappropriate. Still, school administrators have chosen to err on the side of caution.

"The individual involved will not be invited back into the school or allowed on school property," Tanner explained.

While some are concerned by the incident, others believe it's all being blown out of proportion.

"He didn't have any sexual offenses toward a minor," said grandparent Pam Haynes. "If it was a minor, I'd be very concerned and wouldn't want him at the school. But this is something that happened with another adult; he paid his time."

Parent Kelly Miller agrees with Haynes.

"I don't think it's any kind of threat or anything. You know. The kids probably enjoyed it and it was no big deal. He wasn't there to harass anybody, he was just doing a service to the school I think," Miller said.

Southard was convicted of those crimes in Suffolk County, New York in 1982.

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