Law enforcement agencies around the state are struggling with a delicate issue. Some years ago, the state created the ESORN online sex offender database designed to provide residents with an easy way of finding out if any sex offenders were living in their neighborhood.
However, a recent law has done little to clear up the issue surrounding the publication of information concerning a small segment of registered sex offenders.
“There’s been a lot of confusion,” said Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg. “There’s been debate and disagreement about what should be done about juvenile sex offenders. It’s an odd issue because an adult offender can’t live within 1,000 feet of a school, but there are juvenile sex offenders who have committed offenses just as serious as some adults who are actually going to school. They are in the schools that adults can’t even live near.”
The issue, he said, is a sad one. On one hand, you have children who would normally be protected by law from having their criminal history released. On the other hand, said students have in the past committed some sort of sexual assault, likely against other students. Discovering a way to protect both the convicted assaulter and any additional potential victims has become a slippery slope.
The state is reluctant to encourage posting information about juvenile sex offenders, said Sheriff Rodenberg, because of the possibility of being sued. Also, there is the simple matter of protecting the offending children from social backlash. However, there is also the issue of the safety of other innocent children.
"We have some schools in Clermont County when this came up a few weeks ago plead with us not to list the kids names on the internet," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "They did not want children's names on the internet who were attending their schools for fear that people would see it and harass the kids or disrupt school. They thought it would be more harm than good. Even juvenile court was reluctant. The other side of the story, which I feel is compelling, is how do you find out if there is a registered sex offender living in their neighborhood? Cannot a juvenile be just as harmful as an adult? My answer to that would be yes. We've seen some of the horrendous crimes that kids have committed."
To balance the issue, Sheriff Rodenberg said that his department will keep that information available, but only provide it to citizens who call and request it. While the online database will still keep tabs on every available adult registered sex offender in the area, residents will have to call to find out if their child is living near or going to school with a registered sex offender.
"I contacted all of the schools on this," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "I told them that, if they want to know who is in their schools, this was how to do it. Obviously, the school wants that information. They want to know."
However, Investigator Lori Saylor, who manages the Clermont County sex offender registry, said that, to date, only one school in the county has attempted to learn about the presence of sex offenders in their hallways.
"I received one request from Amelia High School, and that's it," said Saylor. "No other school has contacted me at all."
Saylor said that there are currently six registered juvenile sex offenders in the county, a number previously as high as 11. For more information, call the sheriff's department at (513) 732-7500 and ask for Saylor or Lisa Sears. Also, you can call juvenile court at (513) 732-7676 and ask for Josh Smith.