SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – Sex offenders are already prohibited from living near schools, but Johnston County is considering completely banning them from campus.
That includes parents of students at the schools if they are on the sex offender registry.
The proposed policy permits parents on the registry to participate in parent-teacher conferences, provided they receive advance written approval of the school’s principal. Parents can also come to campus at the request of the principal “for any reason relating to the welfare or transportation of his or her child.”
There is also an exception for voters assigned to a precinct at a school, but the person must inform the principal in advance of their intent to vote and leave immediately after completing a ballot.
The Johnston County Board of Education will vote on the policy at its September 12 meeting.
“There have been no issues. This is just a proactive stance on the part of the Johnston County Public Schools Board of Education. We’ve always followed general statute. This particular policy just strengthens our practice, and it provides clearer guidelines for our principals,” JCPS Chief of Communications Crystal Roberts said.
In order to make one of the approved campus visits, parents on the registry would be required to meet a staff member at the edge of the school property and be supervised during the duration of their time at school.
“I think it’s a great policy to put in effect, but how am I supposed to know that it’s actually being enforced,” elementary school parent Takeyah Nelson said.
“If I bring my child to the park, I don’t know that Tom over there is a sex offender. I don’t know that Regina over there is a child abductor. How are you going to enforce it?”
Roberts said registered sex offenders are supposed to self-disclose their status. She said principals and school staff are also familiar with their students’ families and will probably be aware if there is a violator on school property.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s online registry lists 224 registered sex offenders in Johnston County.
Roberts said she does not know how many of the offenders are parents of Johnston County Public Schools students.
“We know that such individuals exist, and so we want to make sure that our students are safe,” she said.
Nelson has a son in kindergarten, and said the registry itself is broad and the policy could punish parents who were convicted of a crime such as statutory rape when they were 17 for having sex with a 15-year-old, or did something that didn’t physically hurt anyone.
“You’ve got people that have touched children that definitely don’t need to be allowed around children, but the term (sex offender), there’s a huge definition. It’s more than just somebody touching a child,” Nelson said.
“It could very well just be a man that got drunk and peed in public, and now he’s labeled as a sex offender for public indecency.”
Berri Johnson has children in kindergarten and in high school. She said it doesn’t hurt to have a policy in place but doesn’t know how to enforce it fairly.
Johnson also said the schools can only do so much for student safety.
“It’s ultimately the parent’s responsibility to protect their children. You have to proactive and be cautious and aware of what’s going on. Nobody’s going to protect your children like you do,” she said.
Johnston County is also considering a policy involving students who are registered sex offenders. In North Carolina, sex offenders as young as 11 years old can be added to the state registry.
Such a student would need approval from the school board in order to take classes, and could only be on campus for “educational services.” They would not be allowed to take part in any other school-sponsored or school-related activities.