School meets with parents over hiring of sex offender - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Sex offender allowed to live and work near school

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GARDEN CITY, SC (WMBF) - Staff with the St. Michael Catholic Church and School in Garden City met with parents to explain the recent hiring of a convicted sex offender to work a job on campus.

The Catholic Diocese of Charleston confirms to WMBF News that St. Michael Catholic Church and the School held a meeting Wednesday night to explain their "safe environment" program to parents.

The program involves policies to keep kids safe at school, especially in terms of sexual offenders or sex predators. During the meeting, they discussed their policy for performing background checks on anyone who works in or around the school.

This meeting for parents was in response to the hiring of a registered sex offender, which worked on school grounds.

After the meeting Wednesday night, many parents expressed frustration at the school and the Diocese of Charleston's handling of the situation. One woman, who chose not to be identified, said she felt like parents complaints were being ignored.

"There's a lot of anger, that things were swept under the rug and not addressed," the woman said.

Another parent, Andre Falcon, said he worries his daughter won't be safe at school.

"How can I trust that my daughter or their children will be safe here tomorrow?" Falcon asked.

The man was hired as an independent contractor to power wash the building. When the pastor of the church discovered the worker was a registered sex offender, they asked him to leave the property.

Diocese of Charleston spokeswoman Maria Aselaga said the Diocese and school currently don't require background checks on independent contractors with limited access to children.

"According to the policy, he was not required to have a background check because he did not have regular access to children, he was participating in a one time job," Aselaga said.

Currently, the Diocese nor the school have announced plans to change their background check policy. Aselaga said she does plan to present parents concerns to the Bishop for consideration.

Falcon said he hopes this incident prompts school officials to take a long hard work at anyone they hire to work on campus.

"It's something as simple as going to the Horry County website...it'll tell you whether they're a sex offender or not or anything, it's all out there everyone to see," Falcon said.

Thursday, Diocese officials revealed the offender's name to be Steven Brown, a Tier III Sex Offender who, according to Horry County Sheriff's office records, lives less than a tenth of a mile from Saint Michael's Catholic School.  Brown was convicted in 1994 in Maryland on 2 counts of Assault with intent to rape.

Officials with the Sheriff's office say Brown is legally allowed to work and live near a school because his previous sex crimes did not involve children, and he is not currently on probation.

Parent Angel Mack says she doesn't care who Brown's crime was against; the notion of a sex offender on school grounds is too much for her to bear.

"That doesn't change my thoughts," Mack said.  "I'm not saying he shouldn't be allowed to work, but in that particular environment, I don't think he should be allowed there."

But other parents, like Rodney Hoots, said they wouldn't have a problem with Brown on school grounds, so long as he was supervised at all times.

"I don't think I'd have a problem if [the school] knew, [and] they were monitoring the situation and he was not a child sex offender," Hoots said.

According to Saint Michael's website, children in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade attend the school. It's still unknown if the hired worker was on school grounds while students were in session.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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