- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

RICHMOND | Virginia schools have a constitutional right to regulate access to their property, the state Supreme Court ruled, rejecting a convicted sex offender’s attempts to attend his stepson’s school activities.

Lawyers on both sides of the case said the ruling Friday could have sweeping repercussions for sex offenders statewide who have received permission from judges to enter school property under certain circumstances.

“What the court has said is that school divisions still have control over their property and the ability to say to courts, ‘Don’t tell us who can come onto our property.’ In that respect, they’re like any private property owner,” said J. Lloyd Snook III, the attorney for the sex offender on the losing end of Friday’s ruling.

The case centered on a state law that makes it a felony for violent sex offenders to enter public or private school property. The same law allows a sex offender to petition the circuit court to lift the ban. Mr. Snook estimated that hundreds of such petitions have been granted statewide.

Mr. Snook’s client, listed in court documents only as John Doe, got an order from Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire not only lifting the ban but also prescribing the types of events Doe would be allowed to attend.

The Supreme Court said the judge’s order went too far. The judge can lift the ban, the court said, but all that does is remove the potential for a felony charge if the sex offender enters school property without permission. The ultimate decision whether to allow the person on campus, and under what circumstances, rests with the school board.

Stacy Haney, an attorney for the Charlottesville schools, said that before Friday’s ruling schools had to abide by judges’ orders allowing violent sex offenders onto school property.

“Any school board that has had one of these cases needs to revisit it and look at this decision,” she said.

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