MP School board finalizes policy regarding sex offenders

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


The Mt. Pleasant School Board approved the first reading of a policy that would allow sex offenders on campus with written permission.

Earlier this semester, it was brought to Superintendent John Henriksen?s attention that the district did not have a policy in place regarding registered sex offenders being on school grounds.

Iowa State Code prohibits an individual who has been convicted of a sex offense against a minor or a person required to register as a sex offender on public or private elementary or secondary school without written permission of the school administrator. However, the district did not have it?s own policy in place.

During a work session last month, the school board discussed the differences between having a discriminatory policy (look at each written request on a case-by-case basis) versus a non-discriminatory policy, which would be a flat ban against all sex offenders. At that time, the board indicated they would be in favor of a non-discriminatory policy.

During a school board meeting Monday night, Ron Ashton, a parol officer who works with sex offenders asked the board to reconsider. ?We?re not here advocating for sex offenders,? he said. ?but we just don?t think it should be a ?no sex offenders allowed on school grounds, period? policy because everybody?s case is different. We would ask the school board to look at each case individually.?

Board member Willy Amos asked Ashton to give the board an idea as to the different circumstances surrounding someone being placed on the sex offender registry.

Ashton said he currently has two cases where the sex offender has children in the school district.

Ashton said one of the offenders was 19 when they were in the relationship with a minor. Ashton said the relationship had parental concent, but after the male broke up with the minor, the parents ?turned him in.? ?So now he?s a registered sex offender,? explained Ashton.

?Because of the rules in place right now, he can?t come to his kids? school programs,? said Ashton.

The other case Ashton described was of a man who abused an adult. ?He went to prison, did his time and is on supervision with us. He?s doing very well in treatment.?

Ashton said he or his colleagues would never advocate for someone unsafe to come onto school grounds, and if approved they would not come alone as they would be supervised.

The most current list of Henry County registered sex offenders has 25 individuals. Five of which have children or grandkids in the school district, according to Henriksen.

The policy Henriksen, and the members of the policy committee, recommended to the board allowed the district to look over each written request on a case-by-case basis.

The policy does allow a convicted sex offender who is a parent or legal guardian of a Mt. Pleasant student to pick up and drop off their child. The policy also allows a sex offender, who is legally entitled to vote, to be on school grounds for the purpose of an election if their polling place is located on school grounds.

The policy prohibits a convicted sex offender from being employed by the district, or to be a contractor or volunteer at any facility.

The board also amended the policy to remove ?sex offense involving a minor? as they preferred to exclude all sexual offenders from campus. Henriksen said he would run the amendments past the district attorney.

The first reading of the policy passed with a 4-2 vote, with board members Chuck Andrew and Karl Braun vetoing the policy. Board member Jennifer Crull was absent from Monday night?s meeting.