Yes, Sesame Street had it right- we need to know who’s in our neighborhood. I was taken aback last night when I went to Sam’s Club with my husband & youngest son. Standing no more than a foot away from us was I man that I know for fact is a registered sex offender. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but he also didn’t seem to be bothered at all being in a store full of families. One may have expected him to try & remain incognito. However, he actually drew attention to himself by being the only one around in shorts, without a coat, in -6 degree weather.
I seemed to be the only shopper who was aware of his past. A little background on how I know what I know:
Years ago, I worked as a manager for a family friendly restaurant. It was one of a chain of restaurants. This man had applied & been hired by the franchise. Although technically he’d been honest on his application by saying he’d been convicted of a felony (assault), served his time, & was done with that obligation, he didn’t elaborate on what the assault entailed. Our franchise had hired him initially while his background check was done. At the time, this was their policy which has since changed for the better.
The general manager proceeded with the hire belieiving that all was in order & knowing the franchise had a second chances mentality. In all honesty, he was an exemplary employee. For two solid weeks, he did above average work, was never late, never called off.
Then, one morning I walked in & saw a fax waiting from the corporate office. Human Resources had revamped their background checks to be more thorough. As a result, many applicants had been re-checked. When this man’s background had been re-run, it became clear that this was no simple assault conviction. It was assault on a female minor & he fell into the Megan’s Law category. Basically speaking, he’d failed to disclose that he was a convicted sex offended. Corporate was clear he was to be terminated immediately.
When he walked in, we fired him & told him why. He wasn’t surprised. According to his own admission, this had happened more than once. As a crew, we were floored. Thank God he hadn’t been hired to work with the public. His work was all behind the scenes, per se.
Had headquarters not rerun him, we would’ve never known. Yes, I understand – even sex offenders have a right to work & make a living. But, I don’t think a family environment is the right area.
I’m also well aware that they can shop & interact like everyone else. What I don’t want, is any child, anywhere put in jeopardy. Parents & guardians need to visit these websites that provide names & pictures of these individuals. I won’t want this man talking to my kids. I’d have to speak up if I’d seen him interacting with kids.
We need to educate ourselves about who is in our community. Recently, in Pittsburgh, a Megan’s Law offender who knew darn well he wasn’t allowed to be near kids, was arressted-again- at the Science Center when he asked a little boy to go to the movies with him. He offered him candy. Thank God that little boy found a trusted adult. This man was re-arrested.
Mass paranoia isn’t the answer. But, do we think twice when that nice grandfatherly man talks to our kids in the checkout line? Do ignore it when our kids simply smile at a stranger? Are we educating them about how dangerous it can be to do either of those things?
Children are a blessing. They’re a gift from God. As their guardians, we need to be increasingly vigilant in protecting them. Keep your kids close in the store. Tell them it isn’t rude to not speak to those around them. Avoid taking them places with jerseys that have their last names printed on it. I’ll gladly be called overprotective. I will insist my husband accompany my son to the public bathroom. I will insist on knowing who is chaperoning youth events & parents’ names. Be vigilant. Visit the offender website. Take note of the maps that tell you where these offenders live. If you don’t fight for your kids, who will?