By Chris Thomas
RICHMOND - A house subcommittee unanimously passed a bill which would require registered sex offenders to have public hearings before gaining access to Virginia schools.
The delegate behind the bill says its a step to protect children, but civil rights organizations say the bill goes too far.
"I certainly would like to know who is being granted access to these public school systems," said Delegate Jeff Campbell (R-6th) who is introducing the bill and is the parent of school-aged children. "I understand the concern about this, but it's really not an attack on the sex offender themselves."
HB1366 would require registered sex offenders to advertise their public hearing in the newspaper for two weeks. Anyone attending the hearing could testify against the request to gain access to the school. Some civil rights groups are already coming out against the bill saying it could lead to angry mobs.
"It's essentially an invitation to throw stones," said Claire Gastañaga with the ACLU of Virginia. "Having a public hearing before you can go to visit your child's teacher? Tell me, what's that supposed to accomplish? I don't see what it accomplishes, other than inviting an angry mob into the school."
Del. Campbell disagrees with that assessment.
"It is certainly not going to prohibit the offender from being able to petition the court and gain access," he said.