Proposed law would force U to reveal sex offenders’ names

Erin Madsen

The identity of any registered sex offender enrolled or employed at the University could soon be public information.
Last week, the Senate approved a bill that would require colleges to release information, compiled by the state, regarding all registered sex offenders either studying or working on campuses nationwide.
President Clinton said he will sign the bill into law.
Currently, the state monitors only Level Three sex offenders. Sgt. Dan Swalve of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit described such offenders as “posing a threat to a community.” Few offenders under Level Three are tracked by the state.
Under the current bill, states would be required to monitor all registered sex offenders, even those under Level Three. The personal information would then be released to the colleges or universities where offenders are enrolled or employed.
Swalve said community notification currently occurs only when there is a significant risk to the community, such as a convicted child molester.
A person with a history of stalking, for example, is not seen as a risk, and, therefore, the offender’s personal information is not currently released.
Swalve said releasing information about a person convicted of a sexual crime lower than Level Three is frowned upon because the offense does not warrant community notification.
Although the bill could contribute to sexual crime awareness, some officials doubt it will aid in prevention.
Legal Advocate and Direct Services Coordinator for the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence, Melissa Schmisek, said prevention is an unlikely benefit of the bill but it could result in valuable awareness.
“At the very least, if students are aware of a place they could get information, then they’ll be aware that sexual assault can happen on campus,” she said.
Schmisek added that student awareness of this potential law will hinge on the University’s advertisement of the available information.
“The success depends on how much the University will do to inform students that it’s there; it can’t be done by word of mouth,” she said.
Swalve said he doesn’t think the bill will assist in sexual assault prevention.
“Most sex offenders perpetrate against someone they know. (The bill) is not going to assist in investigations anymore than it does now,” he said.
University Police Capt. Steve Johnson said he his unfamiliar with the details of the bill but supports information being released to the University community that provides safety awareness.
The bill also includes $50 million in grants from the Justice Department to colleges over five years for sexual violence crime prevention.
If the bill is signed into law, requirements will be introduced in 2002. Currently the information is not available.