School board holds off on sex offender policy for further review

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NAUGATUCK — At the request of Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, the Board of Education tabled action on a proposed policy that would ban sex offenders from school grounds.

The school board tabled a vote on the proposal at its Jan. 9 meeting. Hess, who has a seat on the school board as mayor, said he wanted the borough’s legal counsel to review the issue and the result of recent litigation before voting on the proposal.

In a subsequent interview, Hess said he’s referring to a federal lawsuit that was filed against the town of Windsor over one of the town’s ordinance that was similar to the proposed policy.

“I want to make sure that the attorney reviews that case before we vote,” Hess said.

Windsor Locks had an ordinance in place that prohibited registered sex offenders from designated child safety zones in the town. An unnamed Windsor Locks resident and One Standard of Justice, a volunteer group that advocates for people accused or convicted of sex offenses, filed a federal lawsuit against the town over the ordinance in 2018. Last year, Windsor Locks voters voted a town meeting to repeal the ordinance, according to published reports.

In 2018, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved its own child safety zones ordinance for Naugatuck. However, officials have yet to enforce the ordinance or take action on an amendment that would allow a sex offender to receive a waiver from the police chief.

Board of Education Chairman Jeff Litke said the board agreed to table the vote for another legal review to make sure the proposal is in compliance with state and federal laws.

The board is expected to discuss the proposal again at its next meeting.

Under the school board’s proposed policy, registered sex offenders would only be allowed on school property to attend a public meeting and to vote. Parents or guardians who are registered sex offenders would be allowed to transport their children to and from school and attend a conference about their child with consent from the superintendent.

If a student is a registered sex offender, the superintendent will determine where and how to educate the student, under the proposed policy.

As of last week, there were 37 registered sex offenders with Naugatuck addresses, according to the state sex offender registry.

The proposed policy comes from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and is on its list of recommended policies, according to Vincent Mustaro, senior staff associate for policy service for the association.

“It’s a policy that is commonly adopted by school districts,” Mustaro said.

CABE doesn’t track which school districts in the state have adopted the sex offender policy, Mustaro said. CABE’s proposed policies are designed to provide boards of education with a starting point for developing their own policies, he said.

Brian Foley, spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the state doesn’t have any laws that prohibit registered sex offenders from school property. There is a state registry requirement that mandates sex offenders to notify the registry if they’re attending or employed at a school, he said.