I was talking with a friend from Florida about schools and he shared a dilemma he’s facing, one that he really doesn’t know what to do about. I suggested that we could cast it out to the net and see what others thought.
Here’s the situation: while poking around one evening he went on to the National Sex Offender Public Registry and found someone who is a fellow parent at his school.
He was so shocked that he shut off his computer before he even read the entire data record, so he doesn’t know what this guy did, but to be in the Registry, you have to have committed either a criminal offense against a minor or a “sexually violent act.”
His question to me: what on earth should he do now?
I’ve spent the better part of a week asking myself the same question, and here’s what I’ve come up with…
First off, I think it’s very important to go back to the Registry and find out what kind of crime the man was convicted for: it seems to me that the situation would be quite different if he beat up his girlfriend twenty-five years ago after drinking too much, then tried to have his way with her, versus if he’s a repeat child molester or worse.
Then if it’s a crime that suggests the children, parents, or faculty of the school might be in any danger, I believe that my friend has a responsibility to talk with someone, probably the administrator or head of school, about the situation.
To be totally honest, my gut reaction is to share the news with all the parents in the school except the parent involved and their spouse/significant other, but that seems too much like a lynch mob and frankly flies in the face of two core ideas of our justice system: innocent until proven guilty, and that the punishment for a crime helps reform the criminal. On the other hand, I don’t believe either of these are entirely true, hence my own lack of clarity regarding how best for my friend to proceed.
But then again, I keep asking myself whether I would want to know if a fellow parent found out that another parent in our school was in the sex offender registry, and I most assuredly would want to know, and to ensure my children were then never in a potentially risky situation with that parent.
And yet, I also hate to think that one stupid decision years and years ago would forevermore hang like a black cloud over someone, even if they’ve long since reformed, learned better coping strategies, or even been cured through anger management or other work on themselves. People change.
Quite a dilemma.
Given the situation I’ve outlined here, help my friend out: what would you counsel, and why?