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Mom wants bus stop moved after news that sex offender moved into her neighborhood

After a predatory sex offender moved into her neighborhood, Tarissa Saice no longer felt safe with her son waiting alone for the bus a block and a half away. So each morning, Saice, her 8-month-old child and her 4-year-old walk the fifth-grader to the bus stop and wait with him there.

That's OK for now, but things will get substantially more challenging once the snow flies.

So Saice asked the Cloquet School District to move her son's bus stop somewhere within a line of sight from her home.

"They set up that stop when we moved here three years ago and no one else uses it," Saice said. "The bus picks up another child a half a block before him, and another child a half a block before that. After my son's stop, they go to the middle school for a drop off. It wouldn't be a huge change."

District officials denied that request.

In a letter written this week to families with children living near the sex offender, Cloquet Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said that changing a bus route when a classified sex predator moves into a neighborhood would set a "problematic precedence," noting that this person recently located to Cloquet after only living in Scanlon for a few months.

"Moving or changing bus routes whenever a classified sex offender moves or changes residences could create very difficult scheduling challenges which may not even be possible to solve," Scarbrough wrote.

Saice isn't happy with the district's decision.

"It's a block and a half," Saice said. "I didn't ask them to go an extra two miles, at the most it would be an extra 60 seconds to protect my son."

Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande also said it isn't practical to change bus routes every time an offender moves.

Although the offender in question, Joseph John Couture, is Cloquet's only Level Three sexual offender - which means he's at the highest risk to reoffend - Cloquet has a total of 47 sex offenders residing here while Scanlon has three.

Couture, 40, lives on the 300 block of Second Street in Cloquet. He was released from prison on May 16, 2011. According to the police alert, Couture was found guilty of engaging in sexual abuse with a female victim, age 8, which included penetration. The offender was known to the victim.

Cloquet has no specific laws concerning where sex offenders may reside, instead the city follows state guidelines, which are minimal.

Cloquet City Attorney Frank Yetka said the city could adopt more restrictive ordinances, but he wasn't aware of any plans to do so.

While acknowledging Saice's very reasonable concern for her children, Lamirande said the latest research from the state shows that when cities place greater restrictions on places that sex offenders can reside, they often simply quit registering.

"Then you don't know where they are," Lamirande said. "I think people don't really understand historically how [sex offenders] select their victims. Normally it's people they know and groom, and have access to in a private setting."

In his letter, Scarbrough also stressed awareness.

"Awareness affords families the reminders and opportunities to discuss safety procedures, how to respond to advances from strangers and how to respond to uncomfortable advances from known individuals," he wrote.

That's not much consolation for Saice.

"I'm not happy," she said.

For additional information on Level 3 Predatory Offenders, go to www.doc.state.mn.us/level3/search.asp and view the video at the bottom of the page.

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