EDITORIAL: Protect children, not sex offenders

On Tuesday, attorneys argued in federal court that sex offenders who are longtime residents of a school neighborhood should be protected from a new Ohio law that could force them to move.

Current law requires registered sex offenders to live 1,000 feet away from all schools. The new law could require sex offenders to move if a new school is built less than 1,000 feet from their residences.

Regardless of how long a sex offender has lived in any said home, this editorial board believes he or she should sell and move if a new school is built closer than the lawful distance to his or her home.

Opponents to the new law claim such requirements would unfairly affect those offenders who have diligently reported their status for years and were never involved in another sex case. Others declare that the law would be a severe hardship for some.

The law, however, should not be passed or struck down for the sake of the offenders. Action should be taken with the welfare of school children in mind, and, when keeping the children in mind, the answer is clear: No registered sex offender should be permitted to live within an unlawful distance of any school, regardless of when the school is built.

Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal agrees.

“I have no compunction whatsoever about enforcing any rationally based law that I believe has a strong potential of providing additional safeguards to our children,” he said. “I would ask, ’What kind of fairness did those people show to their victims?”’

In American society, we punish those who wrong others. It’s the democratic way to best safeguard the rights guaranteed to each individual.

Frank Strigari, an assistant Ohio attorney general, argued that the school zone prohibition is much like punishments placed upon others who break laws. In America, we take the driver’s license from a person convicted of DUI, and we do not allow a convicted felon to carry a gun.

“It’s a valid instance of the state of Ohio exercising its police authority,” Strigari said of the restrictions upon sex offenders. “The state of Ohio has taken reasonable measures to protect school children.”

If registered sex offenders were not required to move, erecting a new school building in any city in America would depend upon where sex offenders live. It doesn’t seem right to pass up viable locations for schools because an offender should not have to move.

U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith seemed to question the idea as well. In court, she asked David Singleton, executive director of the Prison Reform Advocacy Center: “What you’re arguing is that a school should not be allowed to be built within 1,000 feet of a registered sex offender?”

Registered sex offenders are registered because they committed crimes, and one of their punishments is the requirement that they live 1,000 feet from all school buildings.

Surely, no person wants someone who committed a sexual crime near children. The law is just, and it must be followed.

Simply stated, those who never wanted to have their living locations dictated by the law never should have committed crimes that warranted such governmental control in the first place.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.