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Governor signs bill limiting registered sex offender access to schools in Wyoming

Gov. Mark Gordon (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Governor Mark Gordon signed a bill into law on Monday, March 24 which adds new restrictions to registered sex offenders attempting to access the grounds of their own children’s schools.

While registered sex offenders are generally prohibited from coming onto school grounds or loitering within 1,000 feet, some exceptions in Wyoming law exist if people’s own children are attending schools or if registered sex offenders are themselves students.

Under previous law, registered sex offenders could access schools to attend their children’s extracurricular activities or conferences. House Bill 68 modifies this law so that permission is required before registered sex offenders can access schools for this purpose.

The new law will allow such acccess “with the written permission of the school principal, vice‑principal or person with equivalent authority.”

The original bill would have required such permission from school officials if registered sex offenders were picking up their children from schools. However, that aspect of the bill was amended out while moving through the legislature.

Registered sex offenders will still be allowed to access school grounds to drop off or pick up their own children without permission from principals.

Senate District 23 Senator Jeff Wasserburger, who says he served as a school principal for 14 years, explained the bill to the Senate ahead of their first reading vote on Thursday, March 5.

“For many years I served as a building principal,” he said. “There were situations that were very difficult to deal with.”

Wasserburger said that registered sex offenders with children attending a school should require written permission from principals to attend such events, noting that this requirement was not in place during his time as a principal.

“I got caught in this situation two separate times in 14 years,” he said. “Both of those times I didn’t have the opportunity to approve. In one case, the registered sex offender was not a risk to my school or to my students.”

Wasserburger said that in the other situation, he was “not so sure that was the case.”

With Gordon’s signing of the bill into law, people who are registered sex offenders are barred from entering school facilities or loitering within 1,000 feet of school grounds unless the registered sex offender:

  • (i) Is a student in attendance at the school;
  • (ii) With the written permission of the school principal, vice‑principal or person with equivalent authority, is attending an academic conference or other scheduled extracurricular school event with school officials present when the registered offender is a parent or legal guardian of a child who is participating in the conference or extracurricular event;;
  • (iii) Resides at a state licensed or certified facility for incarceration, health or convalescent care that is within one thousand (1,000) feet from the property on which a school is located;
  • (iv) Is dropping off or picking up a child and the registered offender is the child’s parent or legal guardian;
  • (v) Is temporarily on school grounds during school hours for the purpose of making a mail, food or other delivery;
  • (vi) Is exercising his right to vote in a public election;
  • (vii) Is taking delivery of his mail through an official post office located on school grounds;
  • (viii) Has written permission from the school principal, vice-principal, or person with equivalent authority, to be on the school grounds or upon other property that is used by a school; or
  • (ix) Stays at a homeless shelter or resides at a recovery facility that is within one thousand (1,000) feet from the property on which a school is located if such shelter or facility has been approved for sex offenders by the sheriff or police chief.

This article includes perspectives which point out that people are required to register as sex offenders for a variety of convictions which don’t necessarily indicate these people are a danger to children and also discusses the legislature’s discussion of the bill in greater detail.