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Bus stop near sex offender raises concern

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

ROCK FALLS – A grandmother is concerned that her grandson’s bus stop is near the home of a convicted sex offender and is upset that school officials will not move it.

The bus stop is on a corner of two streets in the Montmorency School District. The sex offender lives just east of the corner.

Some students walk past the house to go to and from the bus stop.

in a letter to Sauk Valley Media dated Dec. 28, the grandmother, Rebecca Walls of Polo, writes that neither the school nor the bus company will move the stop. Walls did not leave a phone number with which to contact her, and she is not in the phone book.

“I do not understand why a school bus can have drop-offs and pick-ups at a sex offender’s home,” Walls wrote.

Montmorency Superintendent John Rosenberry believes there is little to no threat of danger to children.

“He’s not violating any of the [sex offender registry] requirements,” Rosenberry said. “The sheriff’s department said he hasn’t had any problems.”

The offender was convicted in February 2008 of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The man, then 26, fondled the breasts of a then-15-year-old Dixon girl in June 2004. He was sentenced to 4 years’ probation and is required to register as a sex offender.

Because he was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, he is considered a sexual predator. A sex offender must register in person every year for 10 years, but a sexual predator must register every year for life.

At the time of his conviction, the man was deemed at low risk to be a repeat offender, and has since complied with the registry requirements, Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Seth Janssen said.

First Student, the bus company that serves the Montmorency School District, determines the bus routes and stops in conjunction with the school based on the number of students in the area.

Manager Tamara McDaniel said the company and the school try to make bus stops as conveniently located to students’ homes as possible. Many local bus stops have been bus stops for years, she added.

There are no state school board guidelines regarding the location of bus stops.

Local sheriff’s departments are responsible for providing a list of sex offenders in their county to the superintendents or school boards of schools.

The bus company does not receive notification of sex offenders along its bus routes or near its stops, McDaniel said.

“We don’t know where these guys live,” she said.

State law prohibits child sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a school, playground or any facility that provides programs or services exclusively to children. State law also prohibits child sex offenders from being within 100 feet of a site posted as a school bus stop if children younger than 18 are there.

The stop in the Montmorency district is not posted as a bus stop; none of the stops along the route have signage. It also is more than 100 feet from the house in which the sex offender lives.

It does not appear the man is in violation of the law, Janssen said, although he questioned the part of the law that says “posted” bus stop.

“What does ‘posted’ mean?” he asked. “If they were picking up and dropping off kids right in front of the house, I’d think we’d try to get that changed.”

McDaniel said this is the first she has heard of this issue. She added that parents who feel their children are in danger should contact local police or even walk with their children to and from the bus stop.

Info about sex offenders

To search the Illinois Sex Offender Registry, go to www.isp.state.il.us/sor. To view a list of frequently asked questions and their answers, click on "FAQ" in the lefthand navigation bar.

To phone in tips about inaccurate or incomplete entries on the registry or to ask questions about the registry law, call the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Team at 1-888-41-ISORT (1-88-414-7678).

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