Naming Names

Students at Boise State want better tracking of sex offenders on campus


Cyndi Blue noticed something perverse about him: the way he showed up at the same place, at the same time, every day. She noticed the way he watched for hours. She saw that he liked to stare at young, attractive women who crossed his path. After some research, she found that the voyeur camped out at Boise State's Student Union Building was a registered sex offender. And he wasn't in the building to pursue higher education.

"He definitely was not [studying], other than the people around him," said Blue, a student senator at Boise State.

Blue, a former correctional officer with a background in criminal justice, recognized the man's behaviors as the predictable patterns sex offenders engage in as they stalk potential victims. The stare of the sex offender that Blue spied on told her that he liked young females. And the student union teemed with students‚ kids, teens on field trips and fresh-faced coeds.

"That's how they make friends, you pass their paths," Blue said. She said the man also exuded charisma.

"They're very charming," Blue said. "That's how they get away with what they get away with."

Blue said that it was by chance that she recognized the sex offender who was also a registered student. And Blue realized that other sex offenders could be on campus seeking potential targets. That prospect, and the thought of her daughter who just started classes at Boise State, left Blue with an uneasy feeling. Now, student leaders are considering a measure that would call on the university to post the names and photographs of sexual offenders attending Boise State in a visible location.

"I would like to make the campus safer for [my daughter]," Blue said.

Blue and sexual offender rehabilitation experts say that sex offenders are less likely to victimize if they know they are being watched by others. But Blue said that current university reports make it difficult to put the eye on sex offenders who frequent campus.

Blue got her hands on a copy of a sex offender registry that state law requires schools to keep on hand. In it, she found a list of 34 names of students and employees who were registered as sex offenders.

But all she found were names. No photos accompanied the list.

Blue didn't even know what kinds of sex offenses those on the campus registry had committed. And she wondered who could tell if a sex offender is sitting next to them in class, when many students don't know the full names of their classmates.

Blue discovered that although the law requires universities to keep a list of students and employees convicted of sexual offenses, they are not required to post the names and photographs of sex offenders in visible locations.

"What is required by law, we have here in our security offices," said Bob Siebolt, director of campus security.

But Dawn Peck, operations officer with the Idaho State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification said that it's within the law to post the names and photographs of sexual offenders on campuses.

"As long as there's a warning about vigilantism, [photo identification of sex offenders] can be posted anywhere," Peck said.

It definitely takes some research and cross-referencing to find out the sex offenders are, what they look like and what classes they're in.

Blue did the research. It took her about three hours to match the names on the campus list with photographs of sex offenders in the Ada County registry.

"Who, other than me, is going to do this?" she said.

Blue saw the need to put a face to sex offenders who frequent the Boise State campus. And that need helped launch the political science major, mother of four and aspiring law student into student activism and turned her into a campus leader. At press time, Boise State student senators were slated to consider a resolution, crafted by Blue, that calls for the display of the names and photos of students and employees registered as sex offenders. If the measure passes, when you visit the Student Union Building, you'll find the names, photographs, student status and sexual offenses of Boise State students framed by red poster board and hanging on a visible wall. Outward appearancs don't say much. Some of the offenders look as young as their victims. Their sex offenses include crimes such as rape, sexual penetration with an object, sexual battery of a minor and enticing a child over the Internet.

Bob Siebolt notes that many student sexual offenders are convicted of statutory rape.

Blue said that she has not encountered opposition to her proposal that, she says, was crafted in accordance with state and federal laws. Other student senators, including Terry Gorseth, said that they have not heard of student opposition to the senate resolution. The measure is co-sponsored by seven of the 11 student senators. But at least one faculty member had concerns about its compliance with federal law, Gorseth said.

Congress expanded the power of the Campus Security Act in 2003 with the Sex Crimes Prevention Act, which requires schools to make lists of students convicted of sex offenses available to the public. The act is part of the 1990 Jeanne Clery Act which was enacted to give students full access to information regarding campus crime and security.

Originally called the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, The Clery Act was renamed to memorialize Jeanne Clery in 1998. Clery, a Lehigh University student in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. Her parents found that more than 38 violent crimes had occurred on campus during the previous three years but students had not been properly informed of the offenses.

Sexual offenses are not common on campus, says Rick Rogers, clerk supervisor for the Boise Police Department campus substation. He can only recall one instance in recent years in which a registered sex offender harassed students and attempted to create sexual conversations.

"He was a strange guy," Rogers said.

Boise State does background checks on potential employees, but the decision to screen or not screen an employee depends on the position a candidate applies for. Nursing education staff, child-care workers and employees with access to buildings all undergo background checks before they are hired, said Jane Kinn Buser, executive director of human resources at Boise State.

But hiring policies aren't a guarantee, Buser said.

"There is no policy that says we will not hire a sex offender," Buser says. Her department is currently drafting a proposal that would expand background checks and make the screening process of employees more extensive.

"We don't want to have any of our students or employees at risk," Buser says.