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Posted: January 1, 2009 5:00 a.m.

State Senator to introduce sexual offender legislation

Bill aims to bar criminals from BOEs

 Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) has pre-filed legislation that would make it illegal for a registered sex offender to run for office on local school boards.

Douglas said he filed the legislation in response to the spring 2008 attempt by Newton County resident Horace Don Gresham to run for the District 2 seat on the Board of Education. In 1988 in DeKalb County, Gresham was charged with felony sodomy involving a child under the age of 14, a charge that carried a 12-year sentence that had yet to expire before he decided to run for office.

In the face of a public outcry, Gresham withdrew his candidacy before a special hearing could take place to judge his qualifications to run for office.

"It was just intolerable to consider the fact that we could have had a sex offender on our school board having access to our schools," Douglas said. "I don’t think that the voters would ever support a sex offender for school board or any other position but we just want to make sure."

Douglas’ bill would amend state law by adding language saying that no one on the National Sex Offender Registry or the state sexual offender registry could be elected to serve on a local board of education.

"Although Don Gresham is not on the sex offender registry because it was not in existence at the time — this would prevent anybody in the future from trying to do what he did — running for the school board," Douglas said.

Current state law allows for convicted sex offenders to run for office 10 years after their entire sentence has been completed said Douglas.

Douglas said he has no plans to introduce legislation that would bar sex offenders from running for other publicly held offices besides the school board.

"Unlike just about any other office, the school board brings you into direct contact with children," Douglas said.

Douglas, who serves on the Senate Education Committee, will be introducing his bill once the General Assembly reconvenes in Atlanta on Jan. 12 for the 2009 legislative session.

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