Recently, common ground between the two groups has emerged.Many politicians still won’t go near the issue, but a growing number of parents—along with legal advocates, scholars, and even law-enforcement officials—are beginning to ask whether the registry is truly serving the children whom it was designed to protect.morning in 2007, Leah Du Buc, a twenty-two-year-old college student in Kalamazoo, began writing an essay for English class that she hoped would save her life.
If the sex-offender registry is a modern development, the impulse behind it—to prevent crimes by keeping tabs on “bad actors”—is not.
In 1937, after the sexualized murders of several young girls in New York, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called for the police to keep a secret list of “all known degenerates.” A decade later, California built the first database of sex offenders, for private use by the police.
Roberts can still be found on a commercial database online, her photo featured below a banner that reads, “New technologies in the hands of teens are another route to the registry.
In Prince William County, Virginia, two years ago, a seventeen-year-old high-school junior sent a sexual video to his teen-age girlfriend, and found himself charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography.
The essay aired details about her past that she’d long tried to suppress; by posting it on her class’s server, where anyone who Googled her name could find it, she thought she might be able to quiet the whispers, the threats, and possibly make it easier to find a job.
Her story, she warned, “is not a nice one, but hopefully it will have a happy ending.”Du Buc had grown up in Howell, Michigan, a small town of berry and melon farmers. She had earned straight A’s, written for the school newspaper, led Students Against Driving Drunk (she voted to change the name to Students Against Destructive Decisions, she says, to stress that “there are lots of bad decisions that can get you killed”), and performed in “Grease” and “Once Upon a Mattress,” while working part time as a cashier at Mary’s Fabulous Chicken & Fish.
When I spoke to the victim, he was shocked to learn of Roberts’s fate.
He described the playground offense as an act of “public humiliation, instead of a sexual act”—a hurtful prank, but hardly a sex crime.
Some, like Du Buc, had been placed on the registry for things they’d done before they reached their teens.
In Charla Roberts’s living room, not far from Paris, Texas, I learned how, at the age of ten, Roberts had pulled down the pants of a male classmate at her public elementary school.
Victoria knew the story, which Du Buc described as “play-acting sex,” in elementary school, with her younger step-siblings.