Wendy Kimball, president of the Seattle teachers union, remembers three times in her teaching career when she had a registered sex offender in the classroom and didn’t know it, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “I believe deeply that most children in middle school and high school know within a week the children in their midst who are sex offenders — and the teachers don’t,” she said. A new law that went into effect Sept. 1 makes school officials aware if children in their classrooms have been convicted of sex crimes.
Some juvenile justice advocates say the law is unnecessary because statistics show that juvenile sex offenders are much less likely to commit new crimes than anyone convicted of other felonies. Still, the law requires sheriff’s offices to notify principals when a juvenile sex offender or convicted kidnapper wants to enroll. Schools may not give parents information about other people’s children. So only school employees will be notified. “We tried to make it perfectly clear to principals that there are confidentiality laws. It’s up to law enforcement to inform the public,” said Kim Schmanke of the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. “We’re not there to inform parents or other kids, and we’re especially not there to create hysteria and negativity, or chaos and the fear factor.” The state has 44 juvenile sex offenders on parole in Seattle’s King County; it was unclear how many live in Seattle or attend school.