It's a parent's worst nightmare for a sex offender to have access to their children. But what if that sex offender is another child, who sits in class next to your kid?
CBS Atlanta has learned children charged with horrific sex crimes like child molestation and rape are being placed back into Georgia's classrooms. In some cases they are in the same schools, sitting right next to your children.
Only a small number of juveniles are placed on Georgia's Sex Offender Registry when convicted as adults. The teens on Georgia's list have been convicted of everything from aggravated child molestation to sexual battery and rape.
But there are hundreds of other dangerous kids charged as juveniles whose records are sealed and their identities and the details of their sex crimes are hidden.
"There was a kid here who had a sexual battery charge," CBS Atlanta's Wendy Saltzman told a parent who has a child at a DeKalb County school.
"At this school?" the parent questioned. "We were not aware of it."
For the first time, CBS Atlanta News is uncovering the criminal pasts of the nameless, faceless juveniles, walking the halls of your kids' schools.
"If there is any child molestation, any rapists coming back to school, that's dangerous. Because that could happen again. If he did it once, he will do it twice," said Juanchella Kemp, another DeKalb parent.
In DeKalb County, three kids have ben charged as sex offenders, two of them for aggravated child molestation.
"Anyone charged with that serious of a crime would not be mainstreamed," said school district spokesperson Walter Woods.
But another child charged with sexual battery for touching another student is still attending class at MLK High School.
"Students are put back that are not deemed violent or are not deemed a threat to their classmates," Woods explained.
In Rockdale County, a 15-year-old boy was arrested in June for molesting a 5-year-old girl. CBS Atlanta obtained the arrest warrant and a judge's order for the child to be returned to school.
"He is not a bad kid. He just made a mistake," his father told Saltzman.
"Some people would consider him a predator, when he was involved with a 5-year-old girl," Saltzman said.
"He's not a predator," his father replied.
"That is a piece of information that every parent needs to know," Representative Rich Golick said.
Georgia is one of only 11 states that doesn't have a sex offender registry for juveniles.
"Do we need to change the laws to create a juvenile sex offender registry?" Saltzman asked.
"That's an open question," Golick said. "I think we are all willing to be persuaded if there is a compelling case to do so."
Golick said Georgia law has other stipulations in place that should protect other children from child sex offenders. One of those laws requires the courts to alert a school when a juvenile offender returns to their district.
But Saltzman discovered that isn't always happening.
"It is a public safety concern as we are speaking right now. School systems have to know that these offenders exits, that these kids are back in their school system so they can prepare accordingly," Golick said.
Our investigation found the Fulton County's court system was failing to provide the Atlanta and Fulton County school systems with the notices required by law. These districts had no way to track these potentially dangerous students.
"How were you tracking these offenders if you weren't being notified they were in your schools?" Saltzman asked Fulton County Superintendent Robert Avossa.
"I am going to have to work with staff on telling exactly how those things were tracked, I just don't know that yet," Avossa said.
Cobb County and Clayton County schools refused to turn over record of juvenile offenders in their schools, in an effort to protect their students' identities.
"I think right now the federal law states very clearly that rights of the individual child supersede the rights of the parents to know," Cobb County Spokesperson Jay Dillon said.
The Gwinnett County school system has a handful of students charged with sex crimes walking the halls of their alternative and open-campus school. Records show they have been charged with everything from child molestation to sodomy and rape. And the district admits some of those who are deemed non-violent could be returned to the mainstream classroom.
"We absolutely have a duty to educate students, even students who may have been convicted of a crime," said Bryan Long, Director of Student Discipline.
The law said these students have a right to be educated, but it's up to the school districts how they handle that.
Right now Georgia is passing up about a million dollars by failing to comply with federal regulations that would require the state to set up a juvenile sex offender registry.
Monday, September 1 2014 11:00 PM EDT2014-09-02 03:00:16 GMT
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