This has been a pretty scary week in Southern California. Two separate teachers, Mark Berndt and Martin Springer, who both taught at the same elementary school, were arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious acts practiced on minors. In Berndt’s case, the abuse affected more than 20 kids.
This has got me thinking a lot about bad guys, and how to protect my children from them. I am not the sort of mother who thinks danger is lurking around every corner. I don’t believe that kidnapping and its attendant horrors are particularly likely events that my family will face. But following the news out of Miramonte Elementary School this week has forced me to grapple with the fact that, most often, danger to our children comes not from strangers, but from trusted members of our communities: our families, our parishes, our schools.
This week, I’m going to be blogging about ways to protect our children from bad guys — mostly by arming ourselves with information, and our kids with the tools to keep themselves from harm’s way.
You can start by checking out The Megan’s Law registry. Megan’s Law basically requires that sex offenders register their addresses with the state, so that members of their communities can be aware of their presence and take appropriate action to protect their children from the offenders in their midst.
Honestly, I’m on the fence about Megan’s Law. First, because I don’t believe all sex crimes are created equal. For instance, a dear friend’s neighbor is on the CA Megan’s Law registry because he took his toddler with him to buy pot (this was clearly before medical marijuana put a kush store on every corner and added a bouncer at the door to keep the babies out). This guy was convicted of lewd acts on his kid. He’s a moron, yes. Horribly dangerous to your kids and mine? Not so much.
But everyone who lives within five miles thinks he’s a pedophile. I feel for the guy.
And honestly — despite my absolute horror at the idea of molesting kids — I do feel for the real sex offenders, who did their time, were released back into society, but will never have a real chance to start over, because their names are on the registry. It wouldn’t be that easy for these guys to blend in even without Megan’s Law — Google is a powerful, powerful thing — but with Megan’s Law, it’s a complete impossibility.
(Yeah, I understand some of these men are really really sick and dangerous and require monitoring. So keep them in jail if they’re too dangerous to walk among us anonymously. Or better yet, send them to mental health facilities for a long long time. It just doesn’t seem right to me to tell them they’re fit to return to normal life, and then make it so impossible for them to live normally. Believe me, I would and will feel differently if any of these guys ever hurt my kids, and I would not think twice about going all Sarah McKinley on them. Love her. But for now, I question the constitutional basis for this stuff.)
Still, if you’ve got the stomach for it: check it out. Then come back here all this week for more tips and thoughts and lists for keeping your kids out of harm’s way.