Parents Seek Answers After Sex Offender Discovered At Burton Elementary School
Posted May 9, 2003 6:08 a.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — Major Stephen Hall, who volunteered at a Durham elementary school, served almost five years in prison for a sex crime involving a child.
A registered sex offender, the 26-year-old Hall faces new charges of misdemeanor assault on a minor under the age of 12. He made his first court appearance to answer the two charges Friday.
A simple background check by officials at Burton Elementary School -- where Hall volunteered from November 2001 until last month -- would have raised a red flag. But the check never happened.
That has parents calling for change.
Hall went from school volunteer to jail inmate when Durham police charged him with assaulting a 5-year-old student at Burton. Hall is familiar with life behind bars after the time he served for a sex offense against a 7-year-old girl.
School administrators are only saying that "procedures were not followed." But Friday, as Hall appeared in a courtroom and a judge refused to lower his $5,000 bond, parents wanted to know why he was even allowed to step foot in a classroom.
"I don't know who to hold responsible for it," said parent Davita Benson, "because things like that happen every day. But that shouldn't go on at schools at all."
Said another parent, Harvey Reid: "Our kids need to be safe. We want to know our kids are safe when we bring them into school."
While parents had plenty to say, officials with the school system aren't talking at all. A spokesman referred a reporter to a schoolboard policy that says volunteers are subject to background checks.
The Rev. Michael Page is a school volunteer and a member of the Durham school board. He went through a background check, and he said it's scary that Hall didn't.
"It almost like a job application," he said. "You have to fill out all the information so they can check it out.
"We have a good mechanism in place. In this particular case, I'm not sure how it slipped through the cracks."
It wouldn't take a thorough background check to weed out Hall. He's listed on North Carolina's sex offender registry.
Principals at Durham schools are required to submit information about any volunteer who will have contact with the students to the school district's central office, and then Human Resources does a background check.
The school district said it's looking into the case. Parents want to know what it finds.
"I talked to my wife about it," Reid said. "Maybe we parents need to get together and talk to the school board more about what's going on."