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Louisiana sex offender pictures law causes confusion - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Louisiana sex offender pictures law causes confusion

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In 2010, Justin Bloxom was tricked by a grown man, pretending to be a girl in text messages, who lured him into a taxi cab to his death.
It was a horrific crime that inspired Louisiana State representative Barbara Norton to take action. 

"After that murder happened I wanted to make sure that I gave children an opportunity to be able to see the faces of some of these predators so that way if they would ever come up to them or try to give them candy or money then they would've already had the opportunity to see their faces, " said Louisiana State Representative Barbara Norton.

Before Norton's law, schools and day cares were supposed to keep sex offender photos in places school officials, grown ups, could see them.  But Norton's law changed that  and now the law says: 

The principal of any such school shall post notice in the schools, in conspicuous areas accessible by all students attending the school which contain a photograph of the offender, which in the discretion of the principal appropriately notifies the students of the potential danger of the offender. 

"We're gonna follow state law and we're gonnna make sure these postings are in conspicuos places where any students, parents and staff can see this,"  said Victor Mainiero of Caddo Parish Schools.

But just before the school year ended, we spot checked four local schools, one in Bossier and three in Caddo, and most were not in compliance with current law.

At one Caddo Parish middle school, the pictures were in the teacher's lounge, which is clearly marked as off limits for students. Also the photographs were kept in a folder.  

At two other elementary schools, one in Bossier and one in Caddo, photos also were posted only in teacher lounges. We did find one Caddo elementary school that had them posted in an area accessible to students, a small hallway that leads to administrative offices.  

Red River United spokesperson, Jackie Lansdale, who helped backed Norton's law, says the lack of enforcement is frustrating.

"These pictures were placed in teachers lounges and students who would typically be the people impacted  or victimized don't usually go into teacher lounges,"  said Lansdale.

But lawmakers say there's a good reason for the mixup--not because they don't want to follow the law, but because it's confusing. 

They say there are different interpretations or summaries of the law floating around.

One version, posted on the Louisiana State Police website doesn't designate that these pictures be seen by children. 

"The principal shall post notices in conspicuous areas at the school which state the defendant's name, address, and the crime for which he was convicted."

        

But Norton's Act 859 specifies conspicuous areas accessible by all students attending the school. Norton intended postings in places like the school library.

What about Desoto Parish, where Justin Bloxom was killed? Desoto Director of Student Services, Darrell Hampton says current practice is for sex offender pictures to be posted only in teacher break rooms.

He says it wasn't until mid school, more than three years after the law passed, that he became aware of the Norton law. However, the decision was made to wait for the coming school year to begin posting the photos  where students can see them.

Bossier Parish Schools Security Director, Danny Dison says the district follows the guildelines on the Louisiana State Police website, again, which does not specify that sex offender photos be posted where students can see them.

Dison says they're trying to protect students on several different levels.  Some worry kids may needlessly see their family members  pinned up as sex offenders. 

" We've actually had that happen on location before at our elementary school before where a child did view and see a family member. With that said we're not trying to hide anything here. It's just that younger children may not need to be exposed to these people so we leave it up to the principals discretion to where they're gonna post these, " said Dison.

Norton says she understands districts' concerns, but she wants to work with them to make this law a reality, and keep kids from possible falling prey to predators.

" Some of the concerns were if that was someone's dad or someone's uncle or someone's cousin and seeing their picture up on the wall and knowing that they are related but my answer to them is i think it's more important to protect the children," said Norton.

Norton says a sex offender has 21 days to send all the info out to a school after leaving prison.

She says she hopes to work with local school districts and new superintendent Dr. Lamar Goree, to end the confusion.  And she adds, she's working with parks and recreation and other local organizations to try and put up pictures where children will be spending time this summer as well.         

But for those who work with children, its unclear if just seeing these pictures will have the intended effect of keeping them safe.

Child Psychologist Crista Murray worries that without any explanation, young children do not know how to interpret the photographs and that this is a sensitive area best left to adults, parents and educators to handle. 

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