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Monday, June 07, 2010

Roosevelt Rape Incident

I think I have gone about as far as I can with trying to get a clear picture on this situation. The reason I thought it important to cover was (1) to try to reassure parents about what is in place and (2) to find out if we need to be advocating for certain things.

What I am sad to say is that like a lot of the criminal justice system, there are flaws to be found. There are gaps in what is supposed to happen. There are people saying contrary things. There is a situation that, on the surface, looked black and white and now there are many shades of gray. At the end of it? We are only as safe as the people doing the protecting (and some of those people aren't even in criminal justice).

I interviewed Pegi McEvoy, the head of Security for the district, a probation officer for King County, and an unnamed source at Roosevelt. All those sources talked to me on procedural grounds (with one exception), NOT in specifics of this case. Pegi McEvoy only spoke to me on this condition. Pegi also generously gave me a complete copy of the law that applies here. I read all the media accounts I could find.

What I can piece together is this story. (I'm not going to recount the incident itself or the crime that lead the suspect to be on probation.) I'll try to fit in what did/didn't happen and legal issues as they come up. Then I'll try to answer the most obvious questions.

The suspect was convicted in June 2008 of Assault 3 with Sexual motivation for crimes committed when he was 15. He received a suspended sentence while participating in out-patient sex offender treatment which includes counseling, probation check-in, and family involvement. (I don't have a complete timeline but it seems he was at Eckstein at least in 2007-2008 and then went to Roosevelt for 2008-2010.)

While at Eckstein he was interviewed by police about his crimes at the Greenwood Library (for which he subsequently plead guilty). I asked Pegi McEvoy if schools, when a student is interviewed by police at the school, would note it in the student's record. The answer was no. They also would do no follow-up from that interview (meaning, does the school see if there is any outcome from the interview like arrest.)

So now we have an SPS student who is on probation and tells the probation office that he would attend Roosevelt.

Now the law specifies that the principal at the student's school will be notified by the sheriff of the county (and not the district). This becomes something of a key point here as the district said in its public statement that the school knew but the district did not. (I maintain that Brian Vance, the RHS principal, would NEVER have let this slip from his duty. I believe Brian when he says the district did know.)

What is maddening and hard to understand is that, legally, if the suspect had been confined, then 35 days pre-release, the convicted juvenile is asked where he/she will be going to school and then the enrollment office of that district is notified. Keep in mind that the law states that the principal will be notified. In that case, BOTH the principal and the district would be notified. However, in this case, the juvenile was NOT confined and so, under the law, only the principal had to be notified.

Now what is interesting is that the probation officer told me that they send the principal a formal letter, not just make a phone call. In some cases, as with smaller districts, they might send the letter to the district.

This is gap #1 - who gets told what when. It's complete crazy town to me that the law wouldn't have been written so the district gets told and, in turn, tells the school's principal and they work out a safety plan.

So then, it becomes a bit murky. When the principal is told, then he/she notifies the district. How the decision is made where to place the offender is something of a mystery to me. I never got a complete answer from either Tracy Libros or Patti Spencer, the district spokesperson.

There is one key point here about this particular case in terms of placement. When this offender was put on probation, he was listed as a Level 1 offender, not Level 2. How did this happen? The way it works is that each county has a different system of assigning levels for sex offenses. (And, they work from adult level ratings which actually, according to the probation officer, shouldn't be used for juveniles.) King County, where the offender lived, assigned him as a Level 1 offender. This is quite different from being a Level 2 and is likely to explain how he ended up at Roosevelt and not an re-entry school (although it is still harder to watch over an offender in a large school like RHS). Also, the school placement of the offender is up to the district.

But wait, I know you are thinking that all the media reported him as being Level 2. Ah, well, what happened is that he moved to Kent which is not King county. It is a little unclear to me exactly when he moved but it seems after the school year 2009 started. So (1) he started the year living in Seattle but moved to Kent so perhaps the district was going to let him finish the year at RHS and (2) since he was a resident of Kent when this incident occurred, it was a different county and there he got labeled as a Level 2 sex offender.

This is gap #2. There should be some kind of overhaul so there is consistency to what level offenders are placed at.

So what happens after an offender is assigned to a school? Well, the principal notifies the district that they are expecting this student and, according to the district, a safety plan is put into place. The district has a transition specialist who works with the probation officer. The probation officer should be monitoring the student for absences, tardies, school work, etc. but much of the plan itself is left to the district/school.

Here's gap # 3. The probation officer admitted this was putting case management onto district/school staff. I would say most of them (except for security) aren't really trained for this work. The principal, in essence, ends up being a case manager for a sex offender. I'm not sure how the state/county support districts in this work.

It is very unclear if the district helped create any safety plan. I heard from the unnamed RHS source that there wasn't much in the way of a plan. However, the probation officer felt that RHS was engaged in this effort and did work with the probation officer.

Here's gap#4. Who is told about the student? The principal has, pretty much, the sole power to determine this under the law but I don't know what the district's policy is on this. According to this offender's probation, he was not to have contact with minors two years his junior or other vulnerable individuals (such as physically or developmentally disabled persons) unless it was under the direct visual supervisions of an adult who knows the offender's history. It seems security at RHS knew about the offender and probably the student's teachers over the last two+ years. However, since his probation stated that he can't have contact with vulnerable individuals, it seems like the Special Ed teachers/staff at RHS should have been told as well. It's unclear if they were.

One interesting thing to learn from the probation officer is that juvenile sex offenders rarely repeat. The figure he gave was that about 93% of them don't. This is very clearly different from what we know about adult sex offenders and so I was probably very wrong in my earlier assessment that he had been "grooming" his victim. Additionally, the probation officer said this offender had been fully participating in the out-patient sex offender treatment and his family was fully engaged. They had no evidence for more than 2 years that he had ever violated his parole. This does not mean he didn't but, under close monitoring, it was never detected. That's a pretty long time to go without re-offending.

The probation officer said his office was deeply disappointed and saddened to hear of his arrest because of their belief that their work with him was making a difference.

One last thing. The victim did appear to some adults at RHS to be social at school and was friendly to other students. I say that just to make clear that the victim was engaged with the RHS population at large and not just with other Special Ed students.

So what do we learn?
  • it is totally unclear, within the district, who knew what. Who at the district was tracking this offender? Who at RHS was tracking this offender? That the district says one thing and the principal says another is troubling.
  • the criminal justice system has gaps as well
  • despite best efforts to help juvenile offenders, some do fail
What can we do?
  1. Ask your legislator to support legislation to amend RCW 9A.44.130 so that BOTH the district AND the principal are notified.
  2. Tell the School Board that you support every student's right to an education but safety comes first. ALL violent/sexual juvenile offenders need to have a safety plan in place that both the district and the school have reviewed. There should be stated times when it is reviewed and monitored such as when the probation officer visits, if the student is maintaining probation standards, etc.
  3. There is a SPS 24/7 Hotline for parents/community who are worried about any student or witness any troubling behavior. USE THIS RESOURCE. The number is 252-0510.
All the security measures could have been in place and this still could have happened. I don't know if the suspect will plead guilty (he maintained to police it was consensual). I don't know if the girl's parents will sue the district. If they do, then we might find out exactly what the district did and did not do. (Of course, the district could always settle out of court so we might never know.)

25 comments:

Michael said...

"...he moved to Kent which is not King county." Uh, yes it is:

"The City of Kent is the fourth largest city in King County, with a culturally rich population of 88,380. It covers a geographic area of 29 square miles. Kent's population is projected to grow to 100,000 within the next few years!

Conveniently located directly between the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Kent has several distinct neighborhoods and commercial districts within its boundaries."

Did you mean Kent School District? They are mostly in King County as well:

"•Our district boundaries encompass approximately 71 square miles. That includes a large area of Kent, a significant portion of unincorporated King County, all of Covington, and portions of Auburn, Black Diamond, Maple Valley, Renton, and SeaTac."

??

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, but among the people who knew that the young man was a sex offender, how many of them knew the terms of his probation? Who knew that he was not to have contact with people such as the victim? And if there were people at the school who knew the terms of his probation, did they know about his relationship with the girl? And if they knew the terms of his probation and they knew about his relationship with the girl, did they know what steps to take to discourage it or report it? And, above everything else, how did it become the teachers' job to act as probation officers for this young man?

spedParent said...

One small bone of contention.

Since his probation stated that he can't have contact with vulnerable individuals, it seems like the Special Ed teachers/staff at RHS should have been told as well. It's unclear if they were.


This seems to assume that disabled students are confined to some special classrooms. That is incorrect. Special education students ARE general education students... that also happen to have IEPs. Since disabled students are particularly vulnerable, and the subject of this boy's probabtion.. ALL teachers should be notified. Disabled students are in nearly every class in every building, and need protection. This student needs supervision for association with both younger students and disabled students... everywhere.

-------------------------

I'm a lot more worried about the willy-nilly housing of disabled students and disabled programs WITH re-entry students. If you're advocating for something... that's a practice that's got to stop. Not sure the extent of it... but, any disability program placement in re-entry schools seems grossly unfair. And a gross violation of the principles of LRE under IDEA.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dang, Michael, I knew I should have checked. Probably he is in Kent school district (based on his address).

Charlie, my information is that yes, some adults at the school knew of their relationship (and his offender status). Why they did nothing, I can't say. And again, this issue of putting probation officer status on schools seems wrong.

I'm not advocating for anything except better oversight. I didn't say Special Ed students were confined to anywhere but I know that Special Ed teachers know who their students are and if they were informed of this offender, would have raised a red flag when this relationship started.

dj said...

Spedparent, where should reentry students with IEPs be placed?

ARB said...

I don't think that sped is commenting in reentry students with IEPs, but rather that there is a special Ed program housed in the same bldg as the reentry program....?

spedParent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spedParent said...

DJ, I'm no expert on re-entry programs... but if re-entry programs are appropriate, then they are appropriate for re-entry students with IEPs. In fact, I bet most re-entry students have IEPs.

The problem is... students who are NOT re-entry students, but are simply disabled. Disabled students shouldn't be housed with re-entry students just because nobody else wants to be housed with re-entry students. Having a disability shouldn't make you fodder for re-entry students. That is the case now for at least some students with disabilities. A re-entry school does NOT represent LRE for students with disabilities.

seattle said...

I wouldn't want my gen ed kids in a school co-housed with re-entry students, so I certainly can't see co-housing a more vulnerable sped population with them.

If you want to mainstream re-entry students fine. But housing them all together under one roof and then putting a program with a vulnerable population in the same building is not a good or safe idea.

seattle citizen said...

I'm getting the feeling that the term "re-entry" is being used rather loosely here.

Rentry is a district thing: student expelled has to go through a reentry program to "get better" enough to rejoin a mainstream school or program.

The student in question is not, I don't think, a "reentry" student but a student who had a legal situation (not to diminish the seriousness of THAT episode) and I don't think that this would impact his standing in the district, though maybe there should be that system more solidified.

So: "reentry" is district system, "probation" etc is legal system, two things.

seattle citizen said...

Rentry IS a separate program, housed in either one or two places in the district at the moment. The idea is that when a student has completed THAT, then they join a mainstream program. I don't believe there are any rentry programs housed in mainstream schools, but their ARE students who have completed the reentry program who are now back to "regular" status in mainstream schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Right, we only have one "re-entry" which is South Lake but the district has alternative high school programs through their Interagency program which I think might have been a better choice.

Central Mom said...

KUOW's The Conversation is about to discuss this topic (noon, Tue).

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I beg to differ about Interagency programs being a "better choice."

The students in thos programs are regular students like any other student, so why is it "better" to put someone with these issues in those programs instead of a mainstream school?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Citizen, this student had to go someplace. If you read my post, he came in as Level 1 sex offender which is, of course, the lowest. I'm saying the district had some options. That they chose a large school, no matter what its education status, to try to monitor a student with these issues.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, if you mean, when you suggest an Interagency school, that a smaller school might be better then I agree. Center School is small; would you also agree that that might work?
My comment was reflective of a feeling that arose when you suggested Interagency, that maybe you meant because somehow those students are already somehow "troubled." I assume now that you meant size. My apologies for reading more into your comment than you meant.

Unknown said...

Most youth sex offenders are at low risk to re-offend, which is why they are classified as level 1 sex offenders. These are typically kids who have been charged with statutory crimes for consensual acts.

This student was classified as a level 2 sex offender, which means that he had a significant chance of re-offending. I think he was a repeat offender already.

He wouldn't have been classified as level II if he was in the 93%.

Unknown said...

Sean, did you read the thread? He was originally classified as Level 1 in one jurisdiction and when he moved, two years later, another jurisdiction put him at Level 2. This is one of the issues.

It helps to read before you post.

Dorothy Neville said...

Geez, Melissa, chill. Looks to me that Sean did read the post. Seems to me that Sean is agreeing about the gap in classification. But also seems to me you haven't explained that very well -- since you said the reason was he changed counties and that's not true.

Maybe he was Level 1 and then once was a repeat offender got changed to level 2?

Seems to me that Sean is simply clarifying that as soon as he was labeled as Level 2, then that 93% no longer applies at all. What's the recidivism rate for juveniles classified level 2? That would be more informative than the 93% non-recidivism rate which may only hold for level 1.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I explained that yes, Kent is in King County, but moving to Kent changed the jurisdiction. Seattle said he was a Level 1 but Kent decided, when he moved there, that even when he had been on probation for two years and followed it, that he was, based on his conviction, a level 2.

(The suspect has only 1 conviction.)

From Youth Justice:

"In reviewing many studies on recidivism rates of juvenile sex offenders, the authors of an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention report surmised that subsequent sexual recidivism was relatively infrequent once the offending was officially recognized. Multiple studies reviewed by the authors found that most first-time offenders desisted from sexual offenses following adjudication and treatment and very few committed such offenses as young adults."

I couldn't find a rate for a variance (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3) but I did find a stat that incarcerated youth are more likely to reoffend than those who were discharged on probation (31% to 18%). This is attributed to the fact that offenders on probation have increased supervisions and probation stipulations.

It is fascinating to me what direction these posts take. I thought there might be discussion on what to do or what the district should do.

seattle citizen said...

I think the district should be the first contact, then they determine where the student goes (keeping in my the civil rights of the student to get an education, and the legal piece regarding "time served" etc as it applies to juveniles). Then they should be in charge of placing the student where he/she will get the most education with the least possibility of danger to others or ostracism of student.

Smaller school might be better.

The legal issue might be that the student is, by law, probably protected from these things: They have rights of privacy etc. The legal system is probably the best avenue to effect change that addresses issues of safety while maintaining the rights of the student, because the District is probably hamstrung in some ways because the student is, in a sense, merely a student.

seattle citizen said...

The whole thing is a sticky wicket: Educators are not probation officers, as has been pointed out. Yet should we isolate the student in some box somewhere 'til they graduate? A very tough issue.
I know some teachers who have excused their students to go talk to parole officers, sometimes for violent crimes. Must be sort of weird...and uneasy-making

Elizabeth said...

Melissa is correct that the City of Kent is a municipal legal jurisdiction and King County is a county legal jurisdiction. The distinction is not geographical -- obviously Kent is part of King County -- it is legal.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa asks what to do. I certainloy have no concrete answers, as I know little about the legal rights and responsibilities of the offender and I know little about District policy and procedure (except what Melissa has kindly reported, and what I think I know from other sources.)
Given the evident confusion over this issue, by the public and by the two (or more) authorities involved, I'd like to see a committee or conference or both that address his issue so there is is clarity, at least, and then steps taken if necessary.

Anonymous said...

Melissa - what an incredibly thoughtful and thorough piece of reporting you did. Thank you.