Aspen School District not sold on proposed sex offender policy
ASPEN – It’s been more than a year since a previously registered sex offender set foot on the Aspen Elementary School campus, but that hasn’t stopped one woman’s crusade to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
In the fall of 2008, a high school student, who had been placed on the sexual offender list three years earlier because of sexual contact he had with young child, regularly visited the elementary school campus for music class. For a while, only a few people knew, including Aspen School District Superintendent Diana Sirko.
But once the word leaked about the student, Aspen resident Patty Clark and a handful of parents lobbied Aspen’s board of education to create the following policy: “If someone has been convicted of a sexual assault against a child, they should not be allowed in the elementary or middle schools. If they have some valid reason to go there on occasion, they will be under direct supervision at all times.”
Clark, who has no children in the Aspen school system, has been met with resistance, both from the school board and Sirko. It’s possible, however, that the board might take up the matter some time this year, board President Charla Belinski said recently.
Belinski, though, said state and local policies already address sexual offenders on campus.
“There are state laws that dictate how sexual offenders can behave in their communities,” she said. “Those are very stringent.”
Creating yet another policy, Belinski said, could be redundant.
“We don’t need to layer on a policy every time something comes up,” she said.
Sirko said Clark’s call for a new policy comes under misleading pretenses. She noted that the student was 14 years old when he was charged with the sex crime on a younger relative. For two years the student, who has now graduated, did not attend music classes at the elementary school. And it wasn’t until his third year at the high school, after completing his probation, that he was allowed to set foot on the elementary school campus.
“I was monitoring the student’s behavior very carefully,” Sirko said. “The student reported to my office before class and after school. And he wasn’t allow to take the class [in the elementary school] until the probation period ended.”
Clark, Sirko and Belinski exchanged e-mails about the subject last fall. Sirko defended the school district’s existing policies, saying that “no additional policies are needed.”
“As we have told you in the past,” Sirko wrote Clark, “this situation was closely monitored. From the beginning, the student was given permission by the court to be on campus, and attend high school activities, supervised, that took place, including classes at the elementary school.
“The student did not take any classes that were held at the elementary [school] for the first two years, until counseling and supervised probation were completed. The student did not begin his high school music class at the elementary [school] until during the third year, again, with the permission of the court. During that year, the student was removed from the registered sex offender list.”
Clark said she isn’t satisfied with the response from the school district, and said that Sirko seemed more concerned about protecting the sex offender than the rest of the students.
“Without a written policy on sexual offenders in the elementary school, it allowed you to let a person who was still on the sexual offender list for six months, from September to February, at attend a class at AES, unsupervised,” she wrote in an e-mail to Sirko and Belinski. “This is unacceptable. I don’t think you or the [school district’s] attorney are looking out for the children, but for the sexual offender.”
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Oral family history provides context that textbooks lack. Tying personal experience to collective events renders them relevant. Most of us have family oral history going back only a few generations, but that spans more history than you might think.