I-Team: Juvenile sex offenders in the classrooms

Last 3yrs: 35 cases involving youth sex offenders in Springfield

"Data Walls" create controversy in Holyoke

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – When you hear “sex offender” you may think about kids as victims, not actually committing the crime, but a 22News I-Team investigation found there are youth sex offenders, kids under age 18, in many communities.

Statistics from Hampden County’s District Attorneys office reveal over the last 3 years there have been 35 cases involving youth sex offenders in Springfield, another 16 in Chicopee, 3 in West Springfield and one in Hampden, Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Agawam and Palmer.

However, those numbers may not tell the whole story because many cases don’t make it to court. According to the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, from 2012 to 2014 in Hampshire and Franklin Counties there were 62 allegations of juveniles committing sex offenses, but only 21 were ultimately charged with a crime.

“I think we don’t want to ostracize kids, we don’t want to put a flag on their head,” said Phil Rich, Amherst. Rich, who’s written a number of books on youth offenders says typically, a child won’t reoffend once they’ve been told what they did was wrong, but those who may pose a risk are adjudicated and put on the registry.

This western Massachusetts man wanted his identity protected, but told the I-Team he is registered as a sex offender for what he did when he was 7-9 years old. He said, “Looking back I definitely know I was in the wrong. When you’re 9 you don’t understand the concept of long-term consequences. It’s almost impossible to fully understand the things you know now.”. He added that he was suspended from school for what happened at home as a child.

Chicopee Police officer Mike Wilk says schools are notified when a student is found guilty, or adjudicated, but they’re not required to alert parents, and don’t have to have the child removed from school. “There’s nothing that states the schools have to let the parents know cut middle part out.  If there is a serious felony the student has committed the school will exercise expulsion hearings to remove the student from the school,” Officer Wilk said.

Right now, a mom is in the middle of suing Springfield schools after a Duggan Middle schooler allegedly sexually assaulted her daughter in school once in 2009. Then was allowed to return to her daughters classroom the following year, when he reportedly raped her twice.

It’s why some parents say they’d want to know about any kids with a sexually violent history who’s in their child’s classroom. “I think that’s something important that every parent should know.  If there’s a concern with anyone around their children whether it is someone young or old,” said Tamara Gates, Springfield.

But Rich says many kids who abuse may have been abused themselves and the likelihood of re-offending in public is rare. “For the most part they’re not dangerous in a school environment, they’re not about to leap on somebody, they’re not going to take advantage of somebody,” Rich added.

Twelve years after the crime, the man we talked to is trying to appeal his Level 2 status to help get a job and start his life over.

You can see those on the registry.

Levels of Sex Offenders

Definitions of the Classification Levels for Sex Offenders

A sex offender is any person who resides, works or attends an institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth and who has been convicted of a sex offense, or who has been adjudicated as a youthful offender or as a delinquent juvenile by reason of a sex offense, or a person released from incarceration or parole or probation supervision or custody with the department of youth services for such a conviction or adjudication, or a person who has been adjudicated a sexually dangerous person or a person released from civil commitment on or after August 1, 1981.

There are 3 Levels of Sex Offenders in Massachusetts

Level 1 Sex Offenders

Where the Sex Offender Registry Board determines that the risk of reoffense by an offender is low and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public by that offender is not such that a public safety interest is served by public availability, the Board shall give that offender a Level 1 designation. Information on Level 1 offenders will not be available to the public. Neither the police nor the Board have authority to disseminate information to the general public identifying a Level 1 offender. Information identifying Level 1 offenders may only be given to the Department of Correction, any county correctional facility, the Department of Youth Services, the Department of Social Services, the Parole Board, the Department of Probation and the Department of Mental Health, all city and town police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for law enforcement purposes.

Level 2 Sex Offenders

Where the Board determines that the risk of reoffense is moderate and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a public safety interest is served by public availability of registration information, it shall give a level 2 designation to the sex offender.

The public shall have access to the information regarding a level 2 offender through the Local Police Department, through the Sex Offender Registry Board and posted on WWLP.com.

Level 3 Sex Offenders

Where the Board determines that the risk of reoffense is high and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a substantial public safety interest is served by active dissemination, it shall give a level 3 designation to the sex offender.

The public shall have access to the information regarding a level 3 offender through the Local Police Departments, through the Sex Offender Registry Board and posted on WWLP.com.

Length of Registration

The length of registration required for sex offenders can vary depending upon the type of sex offense conviction. A classification level does not affect the length of registration. The SORL requires that those persons convicted of a sexually violent offense or 2 or more sexual offenses against a child must register for life. The SORL requires for certain other sex offenses that the duty to register shall end 20 years after such sex offender has been convicted or adjudicated or has been released from all custody or supervision, whichever occurs last.

Persons whose only sex offense was committed as a juvenile may request relief from their duty to register. Persons convicted or adjudicated of sex offenses other than sexually violent offenses or a single sex crime against a child may also request early relief from their duty to register. Such requests are not automatically granted by the Board and are reviewed on a case by case basis.

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