I recently made an alarming discovery regarding an individual who comes in too-close-for-comfort proximity to my child. What is scarier is that the law in Michigan protects him. This individual works right next to my son’s daycare center. I am sharing my story because we are all completely unaware of the people who come into casual contact with our children every day.
To begin, my daycare center is amazing, and the people who cared for my oldest son, and now care for my youngest son, are fantastic! I did my research, I asked questions, I checked with licensing authorities, I looked to see if complaints had been made, if any lawsuits had been filed, and found that this center, located in a shopping plaza in an affluent community, is top-notch. I had what I now see as an unreasonably high comfort level with leaving my small children in their care. The reason I say “unreasonably high” is because no matter how perfect their care, there are always outside factors that are not within their control.
It might have gone completely unnoticed had my husband not on the off-chance picked my son up from daycare that day. I had a late meeting and was sitting in my office when my husband called. I answered assuming that my little guy just wanted to say hi, but the moment I heard my husband’s voice I knew something was wrong. The anxiety immediately shot up from my stomach to my chest as he described seeing an individual who he had worked with some 18+ years ago arrive to work at the family-friendly chain restaurant next door. The reason that this concerned my husband so greatly was that he knew that this individual had been incarcerated for many years for having a sexual relationship with a minor (a very young minor). Now this individual was working in the building adjoining my son’s daycare center.
My initial thoughts were that this must be a mistake. This man would be on the sex offender registry, and surely his parole officer would not allow him to violate the terms of his release by working less than 100 feet from a daycare center/school. This shopping center has nothing more than a parking lot separating it from an elementary school. It is impossible that this could be overlooked.
I immediately got off of the phone with my husband and called the restaurant to verify that this individual did in fact work there, then I called my daycare center and reported to them what I knew. They did a search of their sex offender database and confirmed that he was on there, then they contacted the police. The Rochester Police Department sent an officer out to the center to speak with the director, and what he told her makes my blood boil.
He indicated that pursuant to Michigan law sex offenders had to stay at least 1000 feet from a school (which he just barely complied with), but that daycares are NOT included under this protection because “school” is defined as K-12, and the daycare center was infant through pre-K. It didn’t matter that older children attended this center before and after school, and during the summer months. It did not constitute a “school” within the definition of the law so law enforcement could not even go speak with him.
This response was unacceptable to me. I was not going to let this go. The intent of the law is to protect children from the threat of pedophiles, and this gaping hole in its protection did not make any sense. I reached out to state and local politicians, and never got a response. Then, I emailed a consumer action news segment, and got no response. I contacted the corporate headquarters of this restaurant chain…crickets. No one returned my call. No one responded to my emails. Did anyone care? I really don’t know.
The law protects this individual’s right to not be harassed, but does not protect my son’s right to not be needlessly exposed to pedophiles. There are a 1,000 restaurants where this man could work, it is no accident that he choose one located next to a daycare center, or one where he had to ride his bike past the playground of an elementary school to get there.
I called and spoke to the principal of the elementary school, who was horrified by what I told him. It was my responsibility as a parent and citizen to make sure that his staff knew how close this threat was. My daycare staff went on high-alert and began watching vigilantly to make sure he didn’t come near the center. They have not seen him, but the reality is that we only know of this individual because my husband recognized him and knew his name. There may be others working there, and at other local businesses, serving your family food, stocking shelves, taking out garbage, watching, waiting. Businesses are not required to do background checks to see if their employees are convicted sex offenders. The reality is that they don’t really care.
I am not done with this fight, I am merely contemplating my next move. I can’t, and won’t let this loophole go because I unknowingly exposed my son to a pedophile, and you likely are too.