Parents often get notes home from their child’s school district about field trips, health concerns, or a movie that will be shown in the classroom.
What parents will never get is a note home about a classmate who is a juvenile sex offender.
“Well, it's not as rare as people think,” said John Douglass, the Executive Director of Emergency Resources for the Shawnee Mission School District. “This is not an easy situation to deal with and it's complicated; it requires a lot of effort to maintain everyone's safety."
Douglass is one of only a few school administrators who know which students are registered sex offenders.
Teachers aren’t told. Neither are parents.
Procedures for juvenile sex offenders in Kansas and Missouri
Kansas does not have one specific procedure for handling young offenders. Douglass said it’s up to the district leaders to confirm if one of its students is a sex offender.
“The court does not notify us necessarily, but when we run into anybody, or discover in any way they are on the list, then we file it accordingly,” he explained.
In Missouri, districts are supposed to receive notice of students who’ve committed sexual crimes. Certain acts, like rape and sodomy, prevent a student from attending regular classes.
In both Kansas and Missouri, districts are tasked with putting the proper safeguards in place. How they handle a student depends on the severity of the crime. Officials work to make sure the offender and victim do not come in contact. If the crime warrants, sometimes a student is transferred elsewhere.
“It's like any community,” said Douglass. “You don't get to pick and choose who the people are that live there. You deal with what you have, and you make those accommodations."
Sometimes, those accommodations are decided in a courtroom.
Possible judgments for juvenile sex offenders
Judges have a wide range of punishment options for youth offenders. A teen may serve time in a juvenile detention center, receive a “no contact” order with the victim, or be banned from using the Internet or electronics.
Before a judge determines the sentence, the court seeks input from a therapist. All youth offenders undergo an evaluation, and a recommendation to the judge is made.
That way, a judge knows just how much protection needs to be put in place.
Rene McCreary, the director of counseling services for Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), is one therapist who helps sex offenders.
“All of the youth that we see are mandated to come to us for treatment,” she explained. “A really critical element in providing treatment to youth with illegal sexual behaviors is teaching them impulse control and giving them lots of opportunity to practice impulse control."
McCreary said there are challenges when working and assessing an undeveloped brain. Rehabilitating a child sex offender, though, can sometimes offer a better opportunity for change.
Typically, the program is 18 sessions and requires further help at home from the child’s caregiver.
“The youth are not fully developed yet, and so it's sometimes difficult to assess accurately where you are with them in treatment,” McCreary explained. “The research shows that it doesn't really matter how old the youth is that is acting out on the victim, that the impact to the victim is still the same."
In 2016, the state of Kansas put more money toward therapists that help rehab child sex offenders.
Can school districts give out student information?
Legally, school districts cannot give out any student information.
You can check the KBI website for more information on sex offenders, including juvenile sex offenders.
However, you still may not get the whole picture.
Not all youth convicted of sex crimes are required to be publicly known on the database. That decision is up to the judge.
"Once these individuals have met their judicial accommodations, the law is very specific on what can or cannot be released on them,” said Douglass. “Everybody feels out of the loop."
Lexi Sutter can be reached at email@example.com.