Are violent offenders in your child's class?

May 7, 2010 7:31:03 AM PDT
It's scary to think there are hundreds of kids convicted of violent crimes in classroom across our area. But what's even scarier -- we don't know who they are. In this ABC13 Crime Tracker exclusive, those convicted kids may have been allowed back in school, and could be sitting right next to your child.

They are young, dangerous and often extremely violent. From aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and deadly conduct, to indecency with a child and indecent exposure, these are some of Harris County's most high-profile juvenile probationers -- and they could be sitting right next to your kid in class.

"Downright shocking," parent Kimberley Barrs said. "I can't believe that."

There's the 16-year-old Westfield High School student convicted of manslaughter. The Benavidez Elementary School student convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Or the 13-year-old at Owens Intermediate convicted of prostitution.

"That don't fly with me," parent Daniel Duran said. "I don't like that too much."

He may not like it, but as a parent, there's not much he can do about it.

Pick any school in any school district in Harris County, and you'll find they all have to play by the same rules. The state education code guarantees all students the right to an education no matter how violent they might be.

Through the Public Information Act, we obtained data from Harris and Fort Bend counties on all students convicted of violent crimes. The numbers were shocking, and while the names of the kids were excluded, the schools where the kids attended at the time of the crime were not.

"I can't give you statistics on whether it's been an issue," said Hans Graff with Houston ISD's Legal Services. "What I can tell you is that as a district, we're committed to having a safe school environment for all kids that are in the school."

HISD says Harris County's juvenile probation department is supposed to alert the various district administrators so they can tell the school principal, who in turn, notifies the teacher that a particular student with a sexual or violent conviction is coming back into their classroom.

The president of the teacher's union, Gayle Fallon, said she believes the line has to be drawn somewhere.

"The more they keep these children in a regular class, the worse it's going to get," Fallon said.

It's not to say that every child rapist will be allowed back in a regular school setting. A school district's code of conduct typically gives the principal a certain degree of discretion.

But keep in mind, no matter how violent the offenses may have been, Harris County schools are under no obligation to tell parents who these kids are. Their identities are protected by federal privacy laws.

"That's not a good thing," parent John Shores said. "That's not a good thing."

If you want to find out if any student at your kid's school has been convicted of a crime, we've made it easy for you to find out. Here is the entire list for all of Harris and Fort Bend counties.


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