A school bus stop. Right in front of a registered violent sex offender’s home. It may be hard to believe, but that troubling reality is why Washington County, Tennessee parent Tommy Laws is speaking out.
“I was angry. It’s shameful that you put children’s lives in danger, to get on a school bus,” Laws told News Channel 11.
We’re in your corner, pressing Washington County Schools for answers on how this could happen, and more importantly, what will change moving forward.
On the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s online map representing where sex offenders reside, one blue dot became a red flag for Laws, who recognized the home as his 4th grade daughter’s bus stop.
According to the TBI website, there are currently 245 sex offenders living in Washington County.
“We’ve called the school board, we’ve talked to the bus drivers, the parking garage, and nothing is being done about the situation,” Laws told News Channel 11 on Friday. “The bus stop is in the yard of a known sex offender.”
Wednesday we sat down with Dr. Roy Gillis, with Washington County Schools, for answers.
Kylie: “Did you know that that individual lived at that specific home?”
Dr. Gillis: “No ma’am. Nor did I know that that child was being dropped at that house.”
“Once we realized that the child was getting off the bus in front of the house, I simply asked the bus supervisor to have that route changed until the child could get off in front of her grandmother’s house,” Dr. Gillis said.
That grandparent’s house is located just across the street from the registered sex offender, on the way to the Laws’ nearby home.
Dr. Gillis: “I don’t know the predator, the violence, other than just looking at the map and seeing a little P there as identifying someone with a harmful status.”
Kylie: “It’s a violent sex offender.”
Dr. Gillis: “Right. Okay. And yes, that’s always a concern when you are having children in proximity to anyone that we would think is violent or has a record. We certainly don’t want a child to be unsafe.”
According to the TBI’s website, the 68-year-old violent sex offender was convicted 13 years ago of third degree sex abuse, and most recently in 2006 of indecent liberties with a child by custodian.
“I’m not doing this over him, I’m doing it because of – you’re putting him at risk of a repeat offender, and you’re putting the children at risk of becoming a victim,” Laws said.
Washington County Schools says it relies on parents for information.
Kylie: “It sounds like right now you all become aware of a situation if a parent calls concerned. Do you look up these bus routes and determine where there may be areas of concern?”
Dr. Gillis: “We can see on our map anywhere that a predator is identified. You’ve got to understand that these folks move and our students move. Often. We don’t try to determine every time – is there a house in front of the predator’s house? If that child is in danger of getting on in an area, we expect that parent to walk that child to the bus or to at least KNOW that child is taken care. We do not try to identify every child and every predator in Washington County.”
Kylie: “Is that something you feel you SHOULD do or may do moving forward to cover your bases?”
Dr. Gillis: “We have looked at the map and if you look at the map of predators in Washington County, knowing that there’s about – more than 450 predators, we’d be very scarce to be able to stop anywhere if we couldn’t stop in front on the child’s house. And not every child will be getting off at their house, but we try to make every effort IF WE KNOW that an individual is getting off at a predator’s house then we will move or change that route as quickly as possible – IF POSSIBLE. And many times, like the situation we just talked about, with the predator living directly in front, as the bus goes down the road and it’s on the left side, we put those children off for them to cross directly in front of the bus even though it may be on the other side of the road. That bus sits there until the child is in their parent’s yard.”
As for Laws, he says the newest location, a few feet removed from the sex offender’s home, is still too close for comfort.
“The best resolution for me would be a new bus route or some other accommodations for the children that live in this neighborhood. Cause it’s not just my daughter. There’s others,” Laws said.TBI Sex Offender LocatiorSex Offender Registry Search CriteriaCopyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.