Parents kept in the dark about student sex offenders

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- A controversial state law that prevents school districts from warning parents about student sex offenders is drawing criticism with news that a 19-year-old sex offender allegedly raped a fellow student near Vancouver.

After news broke about the Vancouver incident, more parents came forward to say they had discovered sex offenders in their children's schools.

Kathleen Britt said she was sad and horrified when she learned about the recent attack on a Clark County campus. The shocking news reminded the Puyallup mom of her own horror upon learning that her daughter was also going to school with a registered sex offender.

"I was initially just stunned because I didn't even know that that was a possibility that registered sex offenders could be in the school and we would not know about it," she said.

The law prevents the Puyallup School District from notifying parents or students about sex offenders, and Britt said the district wouldn't even tell her how they planned to keep students safe.

"Because as parents we entrust our kids to the care of these people all day long, and if we don't know we can't partner with them to protect them," Britt said.

State Rep. Kirk Pearson thinks parents should know if there are registered sex offenders in their kids' classes, and he's tried to pass such a law for a decade.

"When you're dealing with sex offenders, you know that knowledge is power," Pearson said.

The state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions does not keep track of juvenile sex offenders in schools, but six years ago an OSPI working group did find that statewide, there were 478 sex offenders under the age of 21. And 165 of those were level 2 or 3 -- the most serious risk to reoffend.

Pearson believes that until parents are armed with specific knowledge about sex offenders, attacks like the one in Clark County will continue.

"I'm a parent and I think the parents in this state should be angry that they do not have that knowledge," he said.