House committee considers McDonald bill to protect minor-age college students from sex offenders

A measure intended to protect minor-age students from Level Three sex offenders on community college campuses received a public hearing Tuesday in the House Higher Education Committee.

Rep. Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, who introduced House Bill 2783, said she was notified by a parent of a Running Start student enrolled in a local community college that a Level Three sex offender was also attending classes on that campus. A convicted sex offender classified as Level Three is considered a high risk to reoffend.

“In this case, the offender had been convicted in 2013 of multiple felonies for unlawful imprisonment of teenage girls, possession of pictures of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and failure to register as a sex offender. The court terms of his release prohibits him from having any form of contact with minor females,” said McDonald. “However, he had been granted unrestricted access to the community college, which has many female students in the Running Start who are minors.”

McDonald said she’s particularly concerned that students were unaware the sex offender had enrolled in the college for the 2016 winter quarter.

“The parents of the Running Start students and counselors of the supervising high schools were not notified that this Level Three sex offender had access to their minor children, which highlights a problem with the system as we now know it,” added McDonald.

“Colleges have the authority now to set restrictions on enrollment and accessibility. Some, however, may be reluctant to act or not fully realize the authority they now have. My bill would make it crystal clear — we cannot allow Level Three sex offenders to use our college campuses as hunting grounds to find their next victims,” said McDonald.

House Bill 2783 would authorize the state’s community and technical colleges to:

  • prohibit a convicted sex offender or kidnapping offender classified as Level Three from enrolling in courses or programs where minors are enrolled or present;
  • require the offender to enroll in online or remote learning sources where he or she will not have personal contact or interactions with other students or teachers; and/or
  • prohibit or restrict the offender’s access to certain campus facilities or areas where minors and other vulnerable people regularly congregate.

“I think we have to be very specific with our community colleges and tell them, ‘Not only do you have this authority, you need to use it to protect the most vulnerable and minor children at our colleges.’ Community colleges need to fully understand their responsibility and their authority to put the safety of our students first. That’s why this bill is needed,” noted McDonald.

The committee has until Friday, Feb. 2 to take action on the bill.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov