Shedding Light on Clark’s Sex Offender Enrollment Policies

Clark has enrolled an average of one level III sex offender per year over the past five years, according to campus security and safety. Level III is the label given to those most likely to reoffend. While all students, faculty and staff are notified of these offenders’ presence on campus, most students don’t know the parameters set on their attendance.

What happens when a sex offender enrolls in classes?

The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in 2000, requires all registered sex offenders to make their status known to any institution where they enroll as students. The law also requires college officials to clearly publicize where and how students and staff can find information about sex offenders on their campus.

Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden
Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden

Clark County Sex Offenders Unit official Eric O’Dell said their office contacts Clark’s security and safety director before any level III offender enrolls in classes. Clark’s student affairs office then sends an email to notify all faculty, students and staff of the offender before classes begin, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden. Student affairs also calls any Running Start students enrolled in the same class and offers them the option of switching classes if they are uncomfortable sharing a classroom with the offender.

Belden said the offender has to switch classes if a Running Start student needs the class to graduate and has no other options in their schedule. Belden said this has never happened.

According to Belden, faculty teaching courses with level III offenders are notified not to place Running Start students in group projects with level III sex offenders. The director of security meets with the offender before they begin classes and determines where they can be on campus based on their history of offenses.

A delicate balance

Communications professor Shree Venkatachalam said while she has never had a sex offender in a class, she’s had convicted felons, some for domestic violence. Venkatachalam said these offenders are some of her most serious students, and many “just want a second chance to be a different person.”

Vice President of Administration Bob Williamson said Clark does its best to strike a balance between providing education to all people regardless of their past, and maintaining a safe learning environment.

“There are two schools of thought,” Williamson said. “There are those who think the community college setting is the wrong place for an offender. we know that offenders have high recidivism rates, they reoffend… The other school of thought is, how does one ever rehabilitate their life if they [don’t] get the opportunity to go to college and turn their life around? I lean more toward the latter school of thought, but with all of the precautions we have in place.”

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