Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oh, No, S.O.

No, not significant other.

I check the sex offender registry (SOR) every once in a while. I'm very conflicted about this. I don't feel good about the shaming that the SOR involves, but on the other hand, I want to be savvy and protect my kids from real or imagined harm- a natural response for a mom.

Well, the inevitable ethical dilemma has presented itself. I found someone on there that was convicted of distribution of child pornography not that long ago, and that person is registered as a student here. Moreover, from their major, I know I will have them in class next semester. The class is not that big, so I will have a lot of contact with them. No, there's no mix-up. I am certain that this student is the same person on the SOR.

Now, this isn't a question of protecting my kids any more, although we live very close to campus (!). This is a question of how I treat this person. I have every intention of acting in a professional manner. But then, how do I *think* about this person?
1. Forget about what I saw on the internet. This is a person who deserves a fresh start, has paid their dues, and I must simply expunge their past from my mind in order to treat them fairly.
2. Though this person does deserve a fresh start, I must keep in mind that recidivism is non-zero. I should treat them as fairly as possible, but always keep a bit of vigilance about them.
3. This person has clearly made a turn around- to go to college and better their life. They probably have a fascinating story and may even speak about their past. I should treat them fairly, but try to get to know them a little so that I can learn about them and especially encourage this person. 

What is your opinion? How would you handle the situation?



  1. Whatever you choose, remember that the SOR doesn't list all sex offenders, just the ones who have been caught. There could be a person in your class right now who is guilty of something worse, but they haven't been caught.

    And keep in mind that distribution of pornography is a very broad accusation and might mean something horrible, or something thoughtless but not horrible.

    1. Insightful. There was a lot of press about it when this person was arrested, and it didn't sound like something mild- sexting or such. It was CHILD pornography. But I DON'T know the whole story and will keep that in mind, thank you.

  2. Obviously you have more data than I do. But a single picture of someone a day under the age of 18 will get a 'distributing child porn' conviction. Maybe this person is a total creep who was exploiting young children, and maybe he or she made a mistake or was stupid with someone juuuust under the legal age.

    I also know someone from high school who is forever on a SO registry for having *completely* consensual intercourse with someone who was just within the parameters for statutory rape. Her parents prosecuted. So sometimes, people do dumb things and get punished forever.

    That said, I think I would maintain a certain professional distance from this person. Sucks to be them, but...

  3. It could be something like 'sexting' with an underage person or forwarding such a 'sext'.

    Not great, not excusable, not entirely innocent, but also not really predatory if the student was young and stupid.


  4. This person came to my office to introduce themselves. They are completely in the open about their history which resembles something like Jenny's first para. I called the Dean for advice, who told the whole story. Now all I have to do is make sure they are not put in a class group with anyone underaged, and moreover, not to have my kids in the building on days when this person might be in the building, too.