Expressing Concern Over School Bus Stops near Registered Sex Offenders


 

Board Matter

Expressing Concern Over School Bus Stops near Registered Sex Offenders

 

Madame Chairman:

A Braddock District resident brought to my attention that she discovered her Kindergartener’s school bus stop is in front of the house of a registered sex offender. I thought this was just one of those things that happens, and could be fixed. However, I then discovered that the Fairfax County Public Schools have an official policy NOT to move a bus stop when it learns that the stop is in front of a sex offender’s house.  A copy of that policy is attached.

Part of the issue behind the school’s policy is based on its concern over the accuracy of the Virginia Sex Offender and Crime Against Minors Registry (the Registry). However, since the adoption of the public school’s policy in 2005, Fairfax County has devoted significant resources to its Sexual Predator Enforcement and Apprehension Detail (SPEAD), resulting in a marked increase in the accuracy of the Registry. Our police do track registered sex offenders, work to upgrade the list, and continually engage in crime prevention techniques relating to that list. The school system cannot cross check all its bus stops in advance against the Registry, and there is no “bright line” to say how close is okay (for example, what if the sex offender’s house is four or five houses from the stop, or down the street, or on someone’s way to the stop). However, given the significant progress the County has made in updating the Registry since the FCPS policy was drafted, this may be an appropriate time for the policy to reviewed.

Therefore, Madame Chairman, I move that the Board authorize you to send a letter on our behalf, in the form and substance of the attached draft, bringing to the School Board’s attention the significant progress we have made in improving the accuracy of the Registry through the work of the SPEAD unit, and suggesting that the time may be right for this policy to be reviewed.

 

Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry

The Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors registry contains identifying information on convicted persons who have committed certain violent crimes.  As of January, 2005, there are more than 250 individuals in this database who reportedly live in Fairfax County. 

Fairfax County Public Schools does not move bus stops or change walking routes based on the sex offender registry.   There are significant difficulties with the accuracy of the registry.

  • The state database relies, primarily, on self-reporting by convicted offenders and is not subject to regular verification.  
  • Addresses in the registry are often incorrect. 
  • The registry is incomplete:  there are convicted offenders presumed to be living in Fairfax County, who are not listed in the registry. 

Additionally, there is no evidence that moving a bus stop one block further from a known convicted offender’s home is an actual improvement in student safety.  Such a move could, inadvertently, move the bus stop into a more dangerous spot.

The best measure of safety that can be provided to children comes from their parents.  Parents are ultimately responsible for the safety of their children, including during their travel to and from school.  We encourage parents to educate their children about stranger danger and provide them with preventive action steps.  Parents should maintain communication networks with their neighbors and with school administrators.  Ideally, parents should walk young children to and from school or their bus stops. 

The safety and security of our students is our highest priority.  To this end, Fairfax County Public Schools maintains a close working relationship with the Fairfax County Police Department in many matters, including those surrounding convicted sex offenders living in the community.  If the police department indicates that an individual—in the registry or not—represents a danger to students, we will take whatever actions we can to protect these students.  If an offender represents a danger to the community in which he or she resides, this issue should be addressed by the probation and parole offices of the criminal justice system, not the school system.

Department of Facilities and Transportation Services

Rev.   3/31/05

 

Draft Letter

The Honorable Kathy Smith,
Chairman
Fairfax County School Board

 

Dear Chairman Smith:

As a result of recent expressions of concern raised by parents, the Board of Supervisor has become aware of an FCPS policy, drafted in 2005, not to move school bus stops, even when it discovers the stop is in front of the home of a registered sex offender.  Part of the reason behind the FCPS policy, as we understand it, was a concern over the accuracy of the Virginia Sex Offender and Crime Against Minors Registry (“the Registry”). 

While the Board does not seek to micromanage the public schools, and understands that a perfect policy may not be possible in this regard, we want to bring to the attention of FCPS the significant improvements brought to the Registry through the work of the Sexual Predator and Apprehension Detail (SPEAD).  Since the adoption of the public school’s policy, Fairfax County has devoted significant resources to SPEAD, resulting in a marked increase in the accuracy of the Registry.  Our police do track registered sex offenders, work to upgrade the list, and continually engage in crime prevention techniques relating to that list.

In light of these improvements, we suggest that it may be appropriate to review the bus stop policy.  In particular, we recommend that FCPS work proactively with the Fairfax Police Department and its SPEAD unit to make itself aware of known addresses where predators reside. We further recommend FCPS consider utilizing the electronic investigative intelligence file maintained by the Fairfax police on over four hundred known sex offenders with connections to Fairfax County.  This file is significantly more accurate and up to date than the Virginia Registry, is available to Fairfax County Police Officers and Detectives, and is coordinated with other county agencies upon request.

County staff would be happy to discuss this matter further with FCPS staff should you desire.
                                                  

Sincerely,


Sharon Bulova

 

 

 


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