SUMMERVILLE -- For the past two weeks, children in a Summerville neighborhood have been getting on and off their school bus in front of a registered sex offender's house.
A couple with three children -- ages 14, 12 and 9 -- asked officials in Dorchester District 2 to move the bus stop, and district leaders agreed to do it.
Starting Tuesday morning, the stop will be moved to a nearby corner "that's in the best interest of all children in the area," district spokeswoman Pat Raynor said.
Dave Flournoy, who asked that the stop be moved, said he appreciates the district's response. But he doesn't understand why school districts don't check out the places they pick for bus stops more thoroughly.
Officials from local school districts said they follow state law when establishing bus routes. The law requires them to place stops at least one-fifth of a mile apart. But individual students on a bus route can't be more than one-tenth of a mile from a bus stop if they live directly on the route, or three-tenths of mile if they live on a nearby street. The law also requires districts to consider certain traffic hazards. But it doesn't require them to place bus stops a certain distance from the homes of convicted sex offenders.
A report on school bus service from the state's Department of Education states: "State law places the responsibility for a child's safety on the parent until the school bus arrives at the bus stop in the morning, and after the bus leaves the site in the afternoon."
Donald Tudor, the department's director of transportation, said it would be difficult to consider sex offenders' residences when selecting bus stops. Such a requirement easily would conflict with the state requirements on the distance between bus stops, he said. And other states that have imposed laws requiring sex offenders to live certain distances from bus stops are having problems enforcing them, he said.
There are many registered sex offenders, Tudor said. If South Carolina required that no bus stop be placed within 1,000 feet of the home of a registered sex offender, "in certain little neighborhoods, it would be impossible to have a bus stop."
For instance, type Flournoy's suburban zip code into the State Law Enforcement Division's registry and you'll get the names of 63 registered sex offenders.
One of them is Flournoy's neighbor, who was convicted of committing a lewd act upon a 15-year-old girl. Flournoy's children's bus stop has been in front of that man's home.
The man said he stays away from the bus stop and doesn't even walk around the neighborhood. "I mind my own business," he said.
South Carolina law prohibits people convicted of the following offenses from living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, children's recreational facility, park or public playground:
--Criminal sexual conduct with a minor, first degree.
--Criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second degree.
--Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
--Kidnapping a person younger than 18.
But it doesn't restrict them from living near school bus stops. The law does require school districts to either provide parents and guardians the names and addresses of certain sex offenders who live within 1,000 feet of their children's bus stop or to place the hyperlink to the state's sex offender registry on the district's Web site.
The Berkeley and Charleston school districts and rural Dorchester District 4 have posted the link on their Web sites. But Dorchester District 2 didn't notify parents, school officials said, and the district hasn't placed the link on its Web site.
Tudor said that although school districts aren't required to consider sex offenders residences when placing bus stops, most respond to parents' complaints and move the stops when possible.
Raynor said the bus stop in Flournoy's neighborhood is the second the district moved this year after neighbors complained about its proximity to the home of a sex offender. District representatives in Berkeley and Charleston counties said they also have had complaints and moved such stops.
School districts and lawmakers across the country have faced the issue, said Ron Book, a Florida lobbyist who pushed for tough laws restricting where sex offenders could live. Book, whose teenage daughter was the victim of a sex offender, said he stands behind such laws, even though they have severely limited where convicted offenders can live.
Many jurisdictions in Florida prohibit offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a bus stop. In one southern Florida community, many offenders were reported living under a bridge because their housing options were so sharply limited.
But Book, who is chairman of an organization that serves the homeless, said he doesn't think the law is causing the problem. Probation and parole officers need to work more closely with offenders to help them find housing, he said.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or dknich@postand courier.com.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.