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Alarmed Parents Call For Predator Law Appearance Of Sex Offender Sparks Concern At Borah Elementary

Thu., Jan. 8, 1998

Parents concerned about a known sex offender watching students at Borah Elementary School are frustrated by a law that prohibits police from disclosing information about the man.

Forty people jammed two classrooms at the school Wednesday night to discuss sex offender registration requirements in Idaho and a proposed notification law. They wanted to know how they could protect their children without knowing whom to watch out for.

“There’s enough red tape in line to protect” the sex offender, Joe Kunka said. “What can I do as a father?”

Currently, state law keeps information about registered sex offenders off-limits to the public. Legislation to be proposed during the upcoming session would change that.

The proposal, known as the Child Protection Act of 1998, would make public a list of adult and youth sex offenders. It also would allow the most predatory offenders to be confined indefinitely.

All who spoke Wednesday night said they support public access to sex offender registration lists. Most also sought immediate solutions.

“Somebody, somewhere has got to stand up and say we’ve got to address this in the next 35 seconds, not five years from now, 10 years from now or 20 years from now,” Kunka said.

A phone call from an alert parent prior to Christmas break sparked the concerns at Borah. A woman told school officials she saw a man watching children outside the school from his pickup.

Coeur d’Alene police investigated the woman’s complaint and determined the man was a sex offender. Police said the man was not on probation or parole and was not violating any laws by sitting outside the school.

“Our antennas went up and we said ‘Wait a minute, we have to take some action to protect our children,”’ said David Hunt, the school’s counselor.

Administrators consulted prosecutors and the school district’s attorney before sending home a letter to parents telling them a sex offender was living in the neighborhood. The letter also mentioned a beige-colored Ford Ranger pickup the man was seen in near the school.

What the school could not tell parents was the man’s name, where he lives or for what sex crime he had served 10 years in prison. State law prohibits police and prosecutors from releasing that information.

That frustrated parents like Mike Newey, who has a daughter at Borah. She and her friends like to walk down the street to one another’s houses.

“It would have been nice to know if they’re walking past this person’s house,” Newey said.

Don Garner has seen pictures and stories about Spokane’s high-risk sex offenders on television and in the newspaper. He wondered why similar laws are not already in place here.

“It seems so close to home,” Gardner said.

Legislators in attendance Wednesday night said it is just a matter of fine-tuning proposals so a good law is passed.

Sen. Clyde Boatright and Rep. Jeff Altus said they are confident lawmakers will approve the law in some form by the time the legislative session finishes this spring.

They encouraged people to call legislators beginning Monday at (800) 626-0476 with comments.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


 

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