An I-Team investigation exposing a loophole in how New York state monitors sex offenders near schools has propelled a state senator to propose a bill to close the gap.
State Sen. Jeff Klein is expected to introduce a bill in Albany Wednesday that would ensure pre-K programs are protected like other schools under the Sexual Assault Reform Act, implemented in 2000 in part to prohibit certain sex offenders from entering school grounds or living within 1,000 feet of them.
The 2000 law applies to elementary, parochial, middle and high schools but does not mention pre-K, and the state's Department of Correctional Services, which enforces the law, says since the law doesn't mention freestanding kindergarten or pre-K programs, they aren't protected under it.
For example, the I-Team tracked down one sex offender on parole after being convicted of raping a 7-year-old girl. He was living at a shelter across the street from a Williamsburg kindergarten -- a fact many lawmakers and parents would be surprised to learn is not a breach of the law under current regulations. The I-Team learned the state actually placed him in that shelter, along with two other offenders.
Klein drafted the bill after the I-Team presented him with findings from a month-long investigation into the Sexual Assault Reform Act's loopholes in June. It passed the state Senate but the legislative session ended before it could reach the Assembly. It is expected to pass the Senate again after Klein reintroduces it this week and then head to the Assembly, where it is also expected to pass.
Though the bill has yet to become law, the state's Department of Correctional Services told the I-Team it has voluntarily begun removing offenders living within 1,000 feet of pre-K schools and programs.