Centralia College

The sun shines briefly on students walking in front of the Walton Science Center on the Centralia College campus in September 2013. 

A bill under consideration by the state House of Representatives has been introduced in an effort to protect minor-aged college students, such as those in Running Start, from level three sex offenders.

The bill, House Bill 2783, was introduced by Rep. Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, and was discussed in a public hearing Tuesday in the House Higher Education Committee.

McDonald introduced the bill after being contacted by a parent whose child was attending college classes through Running Start at a community college where a level three sex offender was also enrolled, according to a news release from the state House Republicans.

“In this case, the offender had been convicted in 2013 of multiple felonies for unlawful imprisonment of teenage girls, possession of pictures of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and failure to register as a sex offender. The court terms of his release prohibits him from having any form of contact with minor females,” McDonald said in a press release. “However, he had been granted unrestricted access to the community college, which has many female students in … Running Start who are minors.”

McDonald was also concerned that students were unaware that the sex offender had enrolled in classes.

The bill would prohibit a convicted sex offender or kidnapper classified as level three — considered the highest risk to reoffend — from enrolling in courses where minors are enrolled. It would also require the offender to enroll in online or remote learning and prohibit the offender’s access to certain campus facilities where minors or vulnerable people congregate.

“Colleges have the authority now to set restrictions on enrollment and accessibility,” McDonald said in a statement. “Some, however, may be reluctant to act or not fully realize the authority they now have. My bill would make it crystal clear — we cannot allow level three sex offenders to use our college campuses as hunting grounds to find their next victims.”

The House Higher Education Committee has until Friday to take action on the bill, according to the state House Republicans.

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