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The Secret Principals Have To Keep: Sex Offenders In School

Phyllis Fletcher

An alleged rape at Seattle's Roosevelt High School last month has parents asking a question: "Why didn't we know our kids were going to school with a registered sex offender?" Under state law, the school principal has to know, but can't tell parents. KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher explains.


The law came about because of Republican State Representative Kirk Pearson of the 39th Legislative District.

Pearson: "Back in 2003, I was — contacted by a constituent. A friend of hers, her daughter was sexually assaulted by a level two sex offender."

A sex offender the girl met at school.

So Pearson sponsored a bill. He wanted parents to find out a sex offender was going to school with their kids. The law finally passed in 2005, with a caveat. It says the sheriff has to tell principals, but principals can't tell parents, or students, or anyone other than security staff and the student's teachers.

Pearson: "It was either that, or nothing. So I accepted it, hoping to get stronger legislation in the future."

The US Department of Justice says most juvenile sex offenders don't repeat their crimes.

And Pearson says critics of his bill were concerned about the rights of juvenile offenders. And that they would be bullied in school.

Pearson: "But in our state we have bullying statutes in place that were passed in 2002. So I don't believe that's an issue. What I do believe is an issue is we should make every effort possible to protect our students."

So Pearson wants to sponsor another bill, so parents could find out about juvenile sex offenders at their kids' schools.

But first he'd have to get re–elected. His term ends this year.

I'm Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.

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