Juvenile sex offender notification bill passes
By Marty Roney
A bill changing the way schools deal with juvenile sex offenders in the classroom is headed to the governor’s desk.
State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, sponsored the legislation. The Senate on Tuesday afternoon concurred with amendments added in the House version, clearing the way for the bill to get the governor’s signature making it law. Chambliss’ bill expands the pool of people notified of low risk juvenile sex offenders to include the superintendent of education and each individual board of education member.
It also addresses enrollment of convicted juvenile sex offenders. It calls for the Alabama Department of Education to craft an enrollment policy that addresses a state-wide framework. But the bill leaves it up to local boards of education to decide if low risk juvenile sex offenders are allowed in a classroom setting.
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is charged with maintaining the registry of
juvenile sex offenders. ALEA also maintains the state-wide adult sex offender
registry, which is open to public view. ALEA classifies juvenile sex offenders
as to their risk to re-offend; low, moderate and high. One of the amendments in
the House version of the bill calls for a judge to decide if moderate and high
risk sex offenders are allowed in a classroom setting.
“I don’t have a problem with the House amendment,” Chambliss said. “Allowing a judge to make that decision, a judge that is likely familiar with the cases, I don’t have any problem with that at all.”
Chambliss sponsored the bill after the parents of a young Prattville girl came to him. In 2014 a then 14-year-old boy was adjudicated delinquent of enticing a child for immoral purposes in a case where their daughter was the victim. The girl was under the age of 12 at the time.
The Autauga County Board of Education expelled the young man for a year, but he re-enrolled this year in a high school in Autauga County. The young girl’s older brother attended the same school and spotted him walking the halls. The parents were angry that the juvenile sex offender had re-enrolled without their knowledge.
The progress of the bill is "amazing," said Stephen Perdue, the Prattville attorney representing the young girl's family.
"For this effort to go from nothing to having a bill pending to be signed into law in a space of four months is amazing," Perdue said. "My research showed that no school system in the state had a policy in place on dealing with juvenile sex offenders in the classroom.
"So to have a law going into place that addresses the problem state-wide is fantastic. This is what my clients wanted. They didn't want another family having to go through what they have gone through. This was never about retribution, this was about the future."
As of Jan. 16, there were 1,305 juvenile sex offenders on the registry, ALEA data shows.
The lowest tier, known as "Number Ones," have been deemed by the courts as the least likely to re-offend. The young man in the Autauga case was declared a Number One offender. The second and third tiers have been deemed by the courts as being of moderate or high risk to re-offend.
On the ALEA juvenile sex offender registry, information on offenders deemed at a low or moderate risk to re-offend is not public. Information on juvenile sex offenders deemed as having a high risk to re-offend are on the public website.
The juvenile registry at ALEA tracks all juvenile sex offenders in the state. Juvenile sex offenders are under the age of 18 when they were adjudicated. There is no way to determine how many of the juvenile sex offenders on the ALEA registry are enrolled in schools, but the numbers do give perspective as to how many juvenile sex offenders there are in the state.
There were 13 juvenile sex offenders listed on the registry as living in Autauga County, with Elmore County having 27 and Montgomery County having 86. Jefferson County, the state’s most populous county, had 129. Henry, Perry and Wilcox counties showed no juvenile sex offenders on the registry.
State law holds that for low risk juvenile sex offenders, local law enforcement is required to notify where the juvenile has established a residence to the principal of the school where the juvenile sex offender will attend. The information given to the principal includes the offender’s name, living address, date of birth, and a statement of the sex offense he or she has been “adjudicated delinquent.” That information is considered confidential by the school and shared only with teachers and staff with supervision over the juvenile sex offender.
Chambliss’ bill expands those notified to the superintendent and member of the local board of education.
Anyone else who directly or indirectly discloses that information could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
For moderate-risk juvenile sex offenders, local law enforcement is required to provide notification of where the juvenile has established a residence to all schools and childcare facilities within three miles of the juveniles declared address. High risk juvenile sex offenders are placed on the public sex offender registry website and local law enforcement conducts notification to the public as though the juvenile were an adult sex offender.
Even after the juvenile sex offender reaches “majority,” or the age of 19, they may still have to register for a period of 10 years from their first registration or must comply with lifetime registration depending on their offense and their age at the time of the offense.
State law also holds that juvenile sex offenders aren’t allowed to work or volunteer “at any school, childcare facility, or any other business or organization that provides service primarily to children” but may not fall under the same living and employment restrictions as an adult sex offender once the juvenile sex offender reaches age 19.