TYLER (KYTX) -- Convicted sex offenders sharing a campus with your college students. It's happening all over the state and right here in East Texas. The Investigators Michele Reese and Kenneth Dean uncover who's on campus, and why most students don't know about it.
"Back in 2000 I met someone online. She was 14 and I was 23."
Registered sex offender Jamie Newburn served three years in prison for his crime. When he got out, he decided to get an education and ended up at UT Tyler. "I don't socialize too much outside of school," Newburn said.
He was a relative unknown on campus, until he ran for student government two years ago. "It got put into the campus newspaper and there were a lot of students upset that I was able to be on campus," Newburn said.
Newburn admits he failed to follow university policy and never registered with campus police. "So when I was running for SGA that's when campus police was alerted and they searched me out," Newburn said.
Newburn is one of two registered sex offenders at UT Tyler. Across the state of Texas, 546 offenders, some of them considered high risk, are enrolled in college, including 2 other schools right here in East Texas.
"It's something you never think about when you come to college," said Kyndra Haynes, a Kilgore College student. According to the Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act of 2000, schools are required to let students know if sex offenders are walking the halls of their campus.
"I think it would be nice to know who they are," said TJC student Madie Jamison. But, many East Texas students say that information is tough to find.
"I don't even know how I would find out if there were any on campus," Jamison said.
We did some checking at three East Texas colleges: Tyler Junior College, which has 4 sex offenders, has the required notification link on its web page.
To get to it, you have to go to the campus police department's website, click two links, and scroll down to page four. At Kilgore College, seven convicted sex offenders are on the rolls. Its notification link is on page 12 of its annual crime stats report. And, at UT Tyler, the link is located on page 30 of its crime stats report. But, despite dozens of attempts from a number of computers, we couldn't get the link to work.
That's in sharp contrast to the police page, for instance, for Texas A&M University. It posts the offenders at A&M on the police departments front page, with a link to their photos. The police chief tells the investigators he thinks his students have a right to know who's sitting next to them in class.
In East Texas, not only do students sometimes not know about offenders on campus, but in cases like Newburn's, campuses don't always know they're there. UT Tyler would not meet with us, but in an email said, "The existing law puts the responsibility for self reporting to the university on the individual, and we abide by that law."
"They come to our office." TJC Police Chief Randy Melton says if students don't stop by to register, they get help from local law enforcement. "Typically we are either notified by the agency they are registered with Tyler police or smith county sheriffs office," said Melton.
However, once sex offenders are registered on campus, TJC does not track them. "We routinely do not monitor their activities on campus," Melton said.
Its students aren't told who they are. "Our student body is not notified individually of those that are actually on campus," Melton said.
TJC says since it is a community college, it does not do a background check on all students, only those who apply to live on-campus.
"Beginning this past school year in August we instituted a policy where we run a criminal history background check on the students applying to live in our residential facilities," Melton said.
At TJC and Kilgore College, if a sexual offense turns up on a background check, the student is not allowed to live on campus. UT Tyler, however, does not do background checks on students wanting to live in campus housing.
"You don't want predators living in the building with them," Pessink said.
Kilgore College police chief Martin Pessink adds the only lapse he sees in his school's sex offender policy is that sex offenders only have to register once, and not every semester. He'd like that policy changed to match those of UT Tyler and TJC. "If they are coming up for a follow up semester it would be nice to have a regulation that they have to come in and check in again."
Mike Jenkins is the VP of Student Development at Kilgore College. "More information is always better so if we know who's on campus then we are in a much better position to respond to concerns," said Jenkins.
Tyler police detective Andy Erbaugh says information on the whereabouts of sex offenders is important because a high percentage of them offend again.
"Studies have shown that people who commit sexual crimes on a whole commit sexual crimes again so there's a need for us to keep tabs on them," Erbaugh said.
"I'd rather have my future back, I'd rather have my life back," Newburn said. He says he can't undo what he did, and looks forward to getting off the registered sex offender list in 2013.
We didn't mention Lon Morris, Jacksonville College or Texas College in our report because they don't have any registered sex offenders on campus.
If you want to know who the registered sex offenders are on your kid's college campus, you can follow the directions listed below to find out more.
Information about sex offenders enrolled in Texas colleges is found on the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety and posted on its website http://www.txdps.state.tx.us.
To access the information:
Log on to the Texas DPS web site.
Under "Top DPS Links" options, click "Crime Records" link.
Under "Crime Records Search" option, click "Sex Offender Search" link
Under "Public Website" option, click "Texas Public Sex Offender Registry" link.
Under "Sex Offender Searches" option, click "School" link.
Under "Select Institution" option, select the college of choice from the drop-down menu and click "search."
Click the link for each individual for information about the offender's age and description, sex-offender criminal history, address, work status, photo(s) and assigned risk level for being a potential repeat offender.