December 14, 2006
Legislation is being introduced by local delegate Rob Bell to essentially ban convicted sex offenders from going onto school property.
"If they're going to be part of society, I have no problem saying that you can't do certain things," explained Bell, the Republican delegate from Virginia's 58th district.
"I realize its an inconvenience to those people that have committed violent sex felonies, but I think at the end of the day the problem is theirs. They're the one who committed the offense, and if we're trying to weight the balance of civil rights, versus keeping kids safe, that's not a very hard decision for me," said Bell.
The new legislation stems from an incident at a Madison County elementary school the Newsplex reported on in January 2006.
That was when the parent-teacher-organization invited a convicted sex offender to appear as Santa Claus at Madison Primary for a holiday event.
School officials didn't know about the man's criminal record until after his visit.
Also under Bell's proposal, a parent convicted of a sex offense would have to get court approval to drop his child off at school, or to attend a parent-teacher conference.
"It does unfairly and perhaps unjustly restrict parents who are sex offenders from coming to their own child's school," explained Scott Goodman, a Charlottesville defense attorney. "But by the same token it protects the other children."
But not everyone agrees. Senator Thomas K. Norment, Jr., R-James City, said "We want to be as hard and onerous on these perverts as we can, but at some point practicality butts up against this. At some point we've got to say uncle."
But Bell disagreed.
"You drop your child off and you're gone. You have this leap of faith that for the next six or seven hours the school will take care of your child, and I think this is just a common sense way to keep that faith."
There are some exceptions in the legislation.
Sex-offenders would be allowed onto school property to vote, or if they got court permission to attend a specific school event.