ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The devil is in the details for a school under construction in St. Joe.
Dozens of sex offenders surround a St. Joseph elementary school being built and their presence is legal.
The new Carden Park Elementary is being built on land once called the “Devil’s Backbone.” Land, that according to city council records, was donated by the city to the school district.
“Well, I’m glad to know that the price of land is more important that our children’s safety. Why would they put a school in an area that knowingly has that many people who could hurt our children?” said parent Robin Carl.
“Its a little disturbing,” said another parent, Gary Kirkpatrick.
According to the Missouri sex offender registry, 81 registered sex offenders live or work within a one mile radius of the school’s front doors.
“That is very, very concerning as a parent. And not just as a parent but as a citizen of this town, why anybody would put anything that involves children in a pedophile’s area is beyond my comprehension and it honestly just makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it,” Carl said.
But under Missouri law, if the offenders were there before the school was open, they can stay. The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of compliance for area sex offenders. Captain Mark Brock says the department has a zero-tolerance policy for those required to register.
Captain Brock also admitted the stats are alarming, and to his knowledge, the department was never consulted by the school district.
“I don’t recall any of my people out of my division or the sheriff’s office sex offender registry being asked to attend any meetings,” Brock said.
Retired Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Sheldon Lyon, who now works for the St. Joseph Safety and Health Council, says for parents, information is power.
“Make sure you find your safe way to school. Get online, figure out the safe route for your child. If they are a young child, always have a parent or guardian walk them to school. If they’re an older kid, walk together and never deviate from the route,” Lyon said.
To search for registered sex offenders in your area in Missouri visit the Missouri Highway Patrol sex offender registry website. In Kansas, visit the Kansas Bureau of Investigations sex offender registry.