Thursday, March 4, 2010

College Bans Convicted Sex Offenders Benton Harbor Lake Michigan College bans convicted sex offenders. Lake Michigan College suspends students for being child sex offenders.

Lake Michigan College has banned people convicted of sex crimes against children and listed on the state sex offender registry from attending classes on its four campuses, officials say.

Three students have been suspended under the new rule, although they will be allowed to take online courses, a spokeswoman for the community college told the Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph.

Administrators made the decision last month after a man signing up for winter semester classes at the Bertrand Crossing campus near Niles told school officials he was a registered sex offender and his victim had been a child, the newspaper reported. The man was not allowed to enroll.

"This brought to light that we could have other students enrolled who could have the same conviction on their record," college spokeswoman Laura Kraklau said. "So that's kind of what sparked it." Officials describe the three students as "suspended" because they can take classes on campus once they are no longer required to register as sex offenders and are no longer on probation or parole. But because sex offenders must register for either 25 years or life under Michigan law, the students essentially have been expelled.

Aside from Bertrand Crossing, Lake Michigan College has campuses in Benton Harbor, Benton Township and South Haven. The ban does not cover students convicted of a sex crime against an adult.

U.S. Department of Education officials told the Herald-Palladium they did not know whether other colleges or universities have similar rules.

Miriam Aukerman, an attorney with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, said the Lake Michigan College rule was too broad and could punish people who pose no threat to children, including 17-year-olds convicted of having sex with 15-year-olds and other "Romeo and Juliet" offenses. The age of sexual consent in Michigan is 16.

Such a ban could be viewed as handing out additional punishment-and that's not a job for schools, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "We tend to believe that the judicial system and the criminal justice system are the appropriate venues for working out who ought to have access to higher ed and who should not if it is a matter either of privilege or a matter of safety," Nassirian said.
Two of three students recently suspended from Lake Michigan College for being child sex offenders have filed appeals with the school.

The decision stemmed from a meeting earlier that month when a prospective student attempting to sign up for winter classes at the Niles Bertrand Crossing campus told administrators he was a convicted child sex offender. The student was not allowed to enroll. A few days later, the three current students were suspended after the school did a check of the entire school body of 4,200 students.

Kraklau said administrators looked at whether other colleges in the country had similar policies regarding the offenders. She added that it appears "a couple of other community colleges have similar rules and policies," although she did not say which ones.

1. I hope these students sue the college and take this issue to court.

2. How can any responsible court say that these sex offender registries are not "punishment" when social outcasting such as this occurs?

3. Try putting yourself in other shoes; you have a nephew or niece who made a terrible mistake and ended up on a sex offender registry. Would you want them banned from attending a college?