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September 19, 2009

Virginia Supreme Court rules that school boards decide whether sex offender can go on school property

This local article, which is headlined "Schools can ban sex offenders," reports on an interesting ruling yesterday from the Virginia Supreme Court:

School boards — not judges — have the final say about whether violent sex offenders or anyone else comes onto school property, according to a Supreme Court of Virginia opinion handed down Friday. The opinion, which was written by Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, reverses a decision from the Charlottesville Circuit Court allowing a sex offender to come onto Charlottesville public school property under certain conditions.

Stacy Haney, a Richmond-based lawyer who represents the city’s School Board, said school supervision is vested in local school boards under the state’s Constitution. Haney said the Supreme Court’s opinion would be far-reaching. “This case will have implications for every single public school division in Virginia,” Haney said....

The petitioner in the case, who filed under the pseudonym John Doe, was convicted in 1999 of two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child while in a custodial or supervisory relationship. They are considered sexually violent offenses, the opinion said, so Doe was required to register as a sex offender.

Under state code, sexually violent offenders are prohibited from entering public or private school or daycare center property unless they attend the school, vote there or have a court order.

Doe was released from incarceration in 2000 and completed his supervised probation uneventfully. He filed a petition seeking permission to go onto school grounds to pick up his stepson and attend activities involving the child. Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire granted the request over the School Board’s objections, Haney said, imposing conditions to limit Doe’s on-campus time and requiring him to give the principal notice before coming to school activities.

“As long as Doe did what the order said, he could come onto property and the School Board couldn’t prohibit it,” Haney said. “What this opinion says is that while the trial court can enter an order lifting the statutory ban on sex offenders going onto the school’s property, the School Board retains the ability to say who can and can’t come onto school property.”...

Dave Chapman, commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, said he believes Doe’s request under the statute was the city’s first. The prosecutor said the General Assembly likely would further refine the statute in the future.

The full ruling in this matter Virginia v. Doe can be found at this link.  Here is how the court website summarizes the ruling:

A court order entered under Code § 18.2-370.5 granting a stepfather who is a convicted violent sex offender permission to enter public school property under certain specified conditions violates Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, which vests in school boards the supervisory authority over public schools. Code § 18.2-370.5 authorizes a circuit court to lift the statutory ban imposed by Code § 18.2-370.5(A), but allows the affected private entity or public school board to determine whether and under what circumstances an offender may enter onto school property. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

September 19, 2009 at 08:26 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Keenan was also nominated to the 4th ct this week. . .

Posted by: . | Sep 19, 2009 9:30:59 AM

A more interesting question is if the stepson has any rights that this violates. If so, it would be better if an impartial children's rights advocate took it up.

Posted by: George | Sep 19, 2009 1:58:05 PM

It's time some of these judges grow a pair. And defend the Constitution not defend politicians and activist groups. And the other comment brings up a interesting thought....what about the kids rights

Posted by: greg | Sep 19, 2009 5:24:28 PM

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