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State bill, sparked by Baltimore County schools’ student sexual offender, introduced.


Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski threw his support behind a state bill on Monday that was sparked by a 21-year-old convicted sex offender who was permitted to enroll in a Baltimore County Public School.
 
During a press conference introducing the legislation, Olszewski said, “Sex offenders have no place in our schools. Period.”

That sex offender, Santino E. Sudano, was allowed to attend Parkville High School even after he was convicted in 2017 for raping a 13-year-old girl. Sudano then allegedly sexually assaulted two other students after he had received the permission to re-enroll at the school after his eight-year prison sentence was suspended.

The proposed bill, sponsored by State Sen. Kathy Klausmeier and cross-field by State Delegates Carl Jackson, Harry Bhandari and Joe Boteler, aims to make it illegal for sex offenders of any age to attend school with other students anywhere in the state.

Olszewski said he was “shocked, furious and frustrated” when he learned that the student was permitted to attend the school despite an earlier conviction.  He asked the school system to review its policies and procedures, but said that it “quickly became clear that… in order to make the changes necessary, we would need the support of state lawmakers…”

WBFF-TV Project Baltimore broke the Parkville High School story last month, reporting that the already convicted Sudano was permitted to be enrolled at the high school even after his 2017 conviction.

Project Baltimore found that Parkville High School Principal Maureen Astarita signed a letter giving Sudano permission to attend the school.  But Sudano’s fellow classmates and their parents were not notified.

Last fall, on the Parkville MD The real people of 21234 Facebook group, some parents who recognized Sudano from the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Search list, expressed concerns to the school system and each other.

But it wasn’t until the story reached the level of county and state officials, after Project Baltimore’s reports, did the system release any type of statement.

Despite building concern, Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Darryl Williams addressed the topic for the first time last week when he was asked a question in front of the Baltimore County Delegation.  He told delegates, “We will not have sexual offenders in our school building.”

But along with a statement he released Friday, Williams did not specifically address why Sudano was permitted to remain a student in Baltimore County Public Schools in the first place.

While attending Parkville High, after his 2017 conviction, Project Baltimore found that Sudano allegedly sexually assaulted two underage girls who attended the same high school.  He was arrested in December for charges surrounding one of the two allegations.  Those charges include assault, second degree rape, and third and fourth degree sex offenses.  He is incarcerated and is currently awaiting his trial which was postponed last month, court records show.

State Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, who is cosponsoring the state bill, said the new legislation aims to make it illegal for sex offenders of any age to attend school in the state.

During the press conference, Kalusmeier said she was “appalled,” and she addressed push-back from those that point out that even sex offending students need to be educated.

“Some folks say, ‘well, what about their education?’”  She said that there are alternative ways to educate students without allowing them to sit in classrooms next to other middle or high school students.

She said that the bill will state that no sex offender of any age will be permitted to attend a school with other students. “If you are any age – 20, 19, 16, 14, 21 – you, as a sex offender, are not going to be allowed in a school….  And not just in Baltimore County, but this will be for the whole state,” Klausmeier said. “We do not want this to happen again. There will be no sex offenders in our schools in Maryland.”

Lily Rowe, a school board member who represents the Parkville district, commented on her school board Facebook page last week about offenders being permitted to attend public schools in Maryland, noting her observations about a recent report released by the state’s Interagency Commission on School Construction.

The report pointed out that elementary and secondary schools are not required by state and federal law to track and disclose student-on-student sexual violence.

In response, Rowe said, “The fact that we don’t track this data is astounding to me. The fact that an adult registered sex offender could be legally allowed to attend school is even more so.”

 

ac@gunpowdergazette.com
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