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Canajoharie police: sex offender gave elementary students 'I love you' notes

January 29, 2017 11:46 PM

Some parents in Canajoharie are feeling uneasy about their children's safety after a registered sex offender was allowed into East Hill Elementary School.

Canajoharie police say a man was eating breakfast with his niece, who attends East Hill Elementary School, Wednesday morning along with her parents in the school cafeteria. Police Chief Bryan MacFadden said the man started passing out notes to other students that made some uncomfortable.

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“So he started passing out napkins with his autograph, 'I love you,' and the date on it. We recovered five or six of those,” MacFadden said.

After some students reported the man to school staff and police were notified, officers discovered the man was a Level 2 registered sex offender.

To the surprise of MacFadden and many parents, the man was legally allowed to be in the school with his niece.

“I sort of thought he had a restriction on schools,” MacFadden said. “But as soon as he gets off state parole or probation, all those restrictions go away.”

MacFadden said the man wasn't alone with any children at the school.

That doesn't make Palatine Bridge resident Heather Murphy feel any better. Her son attends the school and her daughter will next year.

“He wasn't just a visitor,” Murphy said. “He was an intruder. He was a predator that was scoping out our children, that was talking to them, engaging them, and telling them that he loved them. Those are our babies.”

Canajoharie Central Schools Superintendent Deborah Grimshaw sent a letter home to parents informing them of the incident and police said the man has been banned from school property and could be arrested for trespass if he's seen there again.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said he's working on figuring out whether state laws regarding sex offenders and schools make sense.

“My staff is already pulling the laws from the books,” Santabarbara said. “We’re scouring through it to see if there’s any amendments we can make to make sure this never happens again. Because it is something very serious. I have a 13-year-old daughter.”

Murphy has started a petition to change the laws.

“Thank God nothing happened to our children, but we're going to make sure nothing ever happens to any child in the state,” Murphy said. “We are going to do something. We're going to be heard.”

The school district says going forward someone will be guarding the school's front door during the day. A Canajoharie police officer will be there Friday. The school district also said relatives are no longer allowed in the cafeteria or past the lobby without special permission.

Credits

Nia Hamm

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