Before sending children off to college, parents may want to do some homework of their own to determine if their campus also house sex offenders. KCTV5 learned that at some schools, a system designed to alert the public, deserves a failing grade.
LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -
In classrooms across Missouri and Kansas, from small community colleges to large universities, convicted sex offenders are present, either as students or on the payroll.
Federal rules state that law enforcement must notify these institutions when a sex offender enrolls or becomes an employee. The same law requires colleges and universities to then make that information accessible to all on campus.
KCTV5 discovered this rule being followed in a myriad of ways.
For example, at Northwest Missouri State University, the sex offender list comes with a price. The school instructs students to visit the local sheriff's office where they must pay for a copy.
In Manhattan, KS, Kansas State University students can get a free copy at the campus police station. Both Johnson County Community College and Kansas University make their lists available online on the official school websites.
KU Police Assistant Chief Chris Keary considers the sex offender list an important tool for the members of his campus community.
"We want people to have this information; whether it's our crime rate or who is a registered sex offender on campus, or what major crime happened," Keary said. "We want people to be aware of that so they can make those decisions themselves, and hopefully not become victims."
Keary takes a pro-active approach with the KU sex offender list.
Instead of merely posting the names provided by the Kansas Bureau of Investigations to the university website, he says he checks with other campus departments to make sure those people are really attending his school or employed by it.
"We want to make sure the information flow is correct and accurate throughout the year, because I don't want to have somebody on the list who no longer has KU affiliation," Keary said. "I'm very adamant that I make sure the list is correct."
That same attitude does not carry across the 180-mile distance to the University of Missouri at Columbia, where KCTV5 discovered numerous discrepancies between the campus sex offender list and those held by the sheriff's department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Only four of the 18 names provided by the university matched state records.
In one case, the school showed an offender, convicted of aggravated sexual abuse, living at Gillett Hall, a dormitory housing 500 students.
That sex offender no longer lives in that dorm. His name no longer appears on either of the lists maintained by the Boone County Sheriff's Office or the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Through email, MU police Capt. Brian Weimer blamed the discrepancies on the highway patrol.
"The department reports the information submitted from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as required," Weimer said.
KCTV5 investigative reporter Eric Chaloux questioned highway patrol spokesperson, Lt. John Hotz, about that assertion.
"Looking at the list Mizzou provides; it is so different than what is found on your website. What would be the answer as to why," Chaloux asked.
"I don't know where they get their information from," Hotz replied. "Our information in this case comes from the county the university is in there and provided to us."
Chaloux wondered if problems on the list could be the result of delays caused by people moving onto and off of campus between new semesters. Hotz refuted that suggestion.
"Anytime they move or change their residence or make those changes, they have that short period of time to notify the chief law enforcement officer in the new area," Hotz said. "So the information should be relatively current."
The MU Police Department says questions raised by KCTV5 led them to investigate further and issue an updated sex offender list.
The names have been whittled down from 18 to just three.
However, when compared against other databases, it appears one sex offender who still works on campus has been left off the new campus list.
As for why the MU list ever contained bad information, a university police spokesman says no one ever instructed the department to remove outdated names and addresses.
Victim's advocate Joyce Grover, with the Kansas Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence in Topeka, says it is important that sex offender lists be accurate.
But she warns against making them the only tool you use when evaluating personal safety.
"Relying on these lists just lets us all pretend that sex offenders are identifiable," Grover said. "When you go look on the sex registry, (you think) 'Oh I've identified the 10 sex offenders in my community. That's all I have to be afraid of or all I have to watch for.' That's really not true. It gives people a false sense of security."
With all that in mind, parents and students still interested in making themselves aware of a particular college or university's sex offender list should start by visiting each school's website.
Once there, a user must type the words "sex offender" into the search bar.
As previously mentioned, some institutions will provide that information online. If nothing shows up, move on to law enforcement sites.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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