Methuen School Committeeman wants sex offender fliers on school walls

METHUEN, New Hampshire — A School Committeeman is proposing some schools hang fliers showing the faces of the city's most dangerous sex offenders on its walls to help children protect themselves.

Committeeman Evan Chaisson wants to put these fliers showing Level 3 sex offenders' names, photographs, personal information and crimes inside locked glass cases in the main offices of schools. He wants the posters to be seen by students in grades five and up.

He says it will help students recognize the offenders if they ever see them in person.
"They're at the age where they could understand what a sex offender is," Chaisson said.

Chaisson's comments came after school officials moved a bus stop located in front of the home of a man who, according to police, may have to register as a sex offender.

Methuen has four registered Level 3 offenders, which are considered to be a "high risk" to re-offend, according to the state's Sex Offender Registry Board. The fliers of these men's faces have made it into some public areas, including the Nevins Memorial Library — but not in public schools.
Besides hanging the fliers in a spot where they cannot be tampered with, Chaisson said, teachers could incorporate the information into their curriculum.

"We could incorporate, maybe, into the health programs and their DARE programs and stuff like that," Chaisson said.

"I think it's a great idea," said Robin Gordon, a member of the Methuen High School Parent Teacher Organization. "Too often kids ... they think strangers are going to look different than your next-door neighbor. It could be your next-door neighbor. It could be anybody."

Schools' reaction
Superintendent Jeanne Whitten has "mixed feelings." Officials need to be careful not to frighten children, she said.

"These are scary faces, and the text is very scary," she told the School Committee. "We have to do this with great sensitivity and thoughtfulness."

"But on the other side of the coin," she said during a recent interview, "you want kids to be aware."
Whitten noted principals have binders full of the Level 3 sex offenders' postings. That information is available to school staff, but it's not put on display for students to see.

The principals will soon discuss Chaisson's proposal, Whitten said.

The city has 43 Level 2 sex offenders, which are deemed a "moderate" risk of re-offending. People can get information on those offenders by requesting it from the Police Department or through the Sex Offender Registry Board. Level 1 offenders are considered to have a "low" chance of re-offending, and their information is not publicly available.

Staff members at Nevins Memorial Library — the city's public library — post Level 3 sex offender fliers on the kiosks around the building, near where they hang advertisements for community events.

"The Police Department asked us to a long time ago," said library Director Krista McLeod. "We feels it's public information. We just feel that people need to be informed."

Library patrons have not had much of a reaction to the fliers, at least that McLeod is aware of.
"I'm sure that people see them, but I've never had any concerns one way or another," she said. "For the most part, I think people probably think it's a good idea."

But is it right?
If school officials are going to hang sex offender fliers, they should incorporate some education about predators at the same time, said Doreen Arcus, a University of Massachusetts Lowell associate professor of psychology with a specialty in childhood development.
"To just have these fliers up, I think, runs the risk of being threatening to students," Arcus said. "Unless it's part of a whole effort designed to help them put it in context and to help them develop the good boundaries and good safety skills, and to empower them."

Chaisson agreed.

"At least we're all on the same page," he said. "We all have the children at heart here."
Educators should teach students to recognize potential predators and to know what to do when they encounter one, Arcus said.

It's not good to simply make children think "there's danger lurking on every street corner," and they run the risk of "immobilizing" students if they simply hang fliers without doing anything else, she said.

"Because you don't want kids walking around being scared all the time — that's not good for them," she said.

School staff members need to be mindful that some students are victims of sexual abuse, and teachers often do not know who those students are, Arcus added.

"For a child who has him or herself been sexually molested, to see these faces leering off school walls can be a very stressful experience," she said. "And although we don't like to think that our children have had those histories, there is a substantial number of children who have."

Arcus said she wouldn't like to see the posters hung in schools without being counterbalanced by positive messages about who is there to protect them.

Nancy Scannell, director of policy and planning at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, raised similar points.

"Obviously, we support, totally, the notion of providing kids and communities with every tool possible to keep themselves safe," she said.

But efforts like this can have unintended consequences when "they're implemented piecemeal," she said.

"We're very concerned about the possibility that there could be a posting of a family member of a child in the school," Scannell added.

The society believes parents are best suited to discuss sex offenders with their children. Also, students can get a false sense that the sex offenders on the fliers are the only people they need to be aware of, Scannell said.

She said Chaisson's proposal "requires some discussion" and there is no easy answer on what is best to do.

Veteran School Committee member Robert Vogler said hanging fliers should be part of a broad educational effort.

"It has to be done not to instill a certain amount of fear in the kids," he said.

The state Department of Education could not say whether other schools have posted these fliers in their buildings, saying it was a local issue.

[Ed: Run children! Run for your lives! The boogeymen are coming to get you!]

1 comment:

brianna said...

I think its not a new thing,,The Porter County Sheriff's Department invests a lot of time and money in maintaining the county's sex offender and violent.



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