Non-existent buffer between sex offenders and Kansas schools upsets parents

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Shocked is the best way to describe how some parents near one Olathe school are. They were stunned to learn one of their neighbors, who lives just steps from Ravenwood Elementary School, is a registered sex offender.

In Missouri, there are laws that keep sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. But in Kansas, there are no restrictions and that has one dad demanding a change.

"How come they lock sex offenders up or make them go to probation offices on Halloween but not 364 other days of the year? That's what doesn't makes sense to me,” Ravenwood Elementary parent Jason Bryson said.

Bryson is a dad on a mission.  He wants a buffer zone between sex offenders and schools.  He even has a Facebook page called ‘Kansas Operation Safe Walk.

“Kansas parents don't know there's an issue with sex offenders living by schools,” Bryson said.

Two weeks ago, one of Jason's neighbors had to register as a sex offender. Stephen Peters received three years of probation after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor. Peters’ backyard looks out to Ravenwood Elementary.

“Did he ever touch a child? No, no," Carl Cornwell, defense attorney, said.

Cornwell is Peters’ defense attorney.  He said his client looked at child porn online but never molested anyone.

"If there's a perpetrator out there who wants to molest a child, he doesn't stop because he's within a 1,000 feet of a school,” Cornwell said.

He said residency restrictions are good politics but poor policy and he has an ally in the district attorney.

“There is no evidence that those restrictions reduce crime,” Steve Howe, Johnson County District Attorney, said.

Howe said the Online Sex Offender Registry allows parents to check know if a sex offender lives nearby.

"By doing that, the public can take steps to make sure their loves ones are safe,” Howe said.

But Jason Bryson believes buffer zones do make a difference.

"It's too close. For us to be this close to a school and have that happen in the state of Kansas is wrong. I wonder who we're voting for," Bryson said.

State Senator Julia Lynn represents the part of Olathe in question. The State Senate has passed buffer zones before, but they never get final approval.

“I do think it's a legitimate concern. I would like to see some sort of a buffer zone, I think that that is reasonable,” Lynn said.

Reasonable or not, parents like Bryson said they'll fight until Kansas catches up with other states.

"1,000 feet, 2,000 feet or two feet is better than no feet,” Bryson said.

Senator Lynn predicts residency restrictions for sex offenders will probably come up again in the next session; even though she admits law enforcement experts don't support buffer zones because it can drive some offenders underground.

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