Bill would change regulations on sex offenders living near school bus stops

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COLUMBIA - A house bill that would increase the restrictions on where school bus stops can be located was voted out of committee Wednesday, however some local residents don't think it will do much.

Under current law, all registered sex-offenders are required to live no closer than 1,000 ft. of school property.

This bill would prohibit any school bus stop from being within 500 feet from a sex offender.

"My goal with the bill is not to put an undue burden on our schools, or on parents, but instead to ensure we all work together to raise awareness and protect our children from possible harm," Rep. Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield said. "We continue to improve the bill to include common sense exceptions, and will work with all parties to fine tune the legislation so that it represents a minimally burdensome, but effective, solution to protect our young people."

The bill will now will move to the select committee on State and Local Government. 

Local reaction 

"If someone wants to cause harm to a child, a 500 foot setback or provision wouldn't really affect them or deter them," a local Columbia parent, Steven Wenger, said. 

He and his wife have been living in Columbia for 32 years and all of their children attended public schools.

Wenger said he understood what the bill was trying to accomplish, but is concerned that it won't change anything.

"There is so many places that the buses stop, I don't know how it could possibly be enforced," he said. "If someone is planning to cause harm to a child, whether their living within 500 feet or a thousand feet, it doesn't matter they're still going to do it."

What law enforcement has to say

Local law enforcement also said the proposed restriction would cause more problems for officers.

"The legislature does this every year and it makes it extremely hard for us to do our job when the requirements keep changing," Detective Tom O'Sullivan said.

O'Sullivan said he has no sensitivity for sex offenders, but there needs to be consistency for law enforcement.

Comparing the numbers

KOMU 8 News looked on the MSHP website and researched a sample on the 100 block on East Broadway.

Starting at Ulysses S. Grant Elementary School (10 East Broadway) to Robert E. Lee Elementary School (1208 Locust St.) there were 13 registered offenders living within a mile of these two schools.

For both of these schools there are two main bus stops: Locust Street at Waugh Street and Park Avenue at N 5th Street.

For local residents to look up their child's bus routes, they go to CPS's bus routes page. Each child is assigned to a specific bus route after they apply. 

For example, the bus route for Ulysses S. Grant Elementary school is exactly 1 mile away to the Locust Street and Waugh Street bus stop.

The blue and red dots in the map below indicate an offender resides at that location:

To see if sex offenders are living in your part of town, search of the MSHP interactive map.