Schools will no longer be able to let registered sex offenders on campus without first notifying students' families, under a bill signed into law Monday and inspired by an uproar over an incident at a San Jose Catholic school.
Senate Bill 326 by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, requires schools to notify the parents of all students at least two weeks in advance if a school grants permission to a registered sex offender, who is not a parent of a child attending that school, to participate in school-related activities.
Beall introduced the bill in February after meeting with outraged parents from San Jose's St. Frances Cabrini parish and school.
Mark Gurries, who was convicted in May 2010 on one count of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor under 14, was at a St. Frances Cabrini event attended by many children last October, and was spotted by a former student who knew his victim. Parents demanded that the Rev. Lieu Vu remove Gurries from the festival, but Vu insisted Gurries, 51 -- who had a permission slip from the Diocese of San Jose -- had a right to be there. Hours later, a sheriff's deputy asked the unwanted volunteer to leave.
Parents blasted the church for allowing a convicted sex offender to work the festival, Vu resigned as the parish priest in November, and Gurries was sentenced in April to 30 days in jail for violating his probation, which specified that he "not work, be self-employed nor do volunteer work in (an) organization that involves supervision of children under 18 years."
Some of the parents who had met with Beall praised the new law Monday.
"It absolutely ensures the safety of our kids in school in a way that wasn't there before," said Bill Updyke, of Los Gatos, whose daughter, Kyra, is in sixth grade at St. Frances Cabrini. "I think whenever you drop your kids off at school, you assume everything is in place for them to be safe ... so it was eye-opening that it was possible for something like this to go on."
The Diocese of San Jose "is in favor of any law that protects children," spokeswoman Bernie Luongo Hoye said Monday.
The state Senate and the Assembly both passed the bill with unanimous votes, and no organizations had opposed it. The new law, signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown, takes effect Jan. 1.