Rather than focusing on predators, broad state registries include sexting teens and high school sweethearts
On the Texas registry for sex offenders, Frank Rodriguez's crime is listed as "sexual assault of a child." If I lived in his neighborhood and had young children, I'd be frightened upon seeing that. Safe to assume that some of his neighbors discovered his status and became alarmed. Needlessly so, as it turns out. Delving into his story, journalist Abigail Pesta has discovered that Rodriguez was arrested for having sex with his high school girlfriend. He was 19. She was 15. They've now been happily married for years, and he has fathered four girls.
The anecdote is part of a larger story about America's sex offender registries and the people on them who don't belong there. It's a timely subject. This month, some state governments are racing to bring themselves into compliance with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in order to avoid losing federal funds. As a result, the sex offender dragnet may pull in even more people. Says Pesta, "Each of the 50 states now has at least one grassroots group dedicated to getting young people -- many high school age, but some under the age of 10 -- off the registry."