NORTH PORT, Fla. (WWSB) - Some North Port parents are learning some shocking news about who lives near their children’s school bus stop at the intersection of South Salford Boulevard and Allure Lane.
Parents know that a lot goes into planning the locations of bus stops and the routes, but they say Sarasota County has overlooked one huge hazard. That hazard is the man that lives right across from the school bus stop is a registered sexual offender.
“Parents should know about that," Marie McKilligin, a concerned parent said. "They should be required to tell us that they’re going to be placing a bus stop in a place like that. We shouldn’t be finding this out on our own. Some parents might not even look into that. They probably don’t even know.”
McKilligin says she does research every time her kids’ bus stop location gets changed. That’s how she learned that just steps away from where dozens of elementary school students will be picked up and dropped off starting next Monday, is the home of 71-year-old Gary Harrison.
He was convicted in Kentucky back in 2006 for first degree rape and three counts of first degree sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but recently relocated to Sarasota County.
“It’s very upsetting because I don’t understand... there’s multiple different roads on Salford Boulevard,” McKilligin said. “Why do they have to pick that specific intersection where they know there’s a sexual offender?”
Harrison is currently under the supervision of the Florida Department of Corrections and is not allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare facility, park or playground. But parents were shocked to learn that a school bus stop does not fall under those rules and that the school district does not legally have to move it to another location.
“The district told me that sexual offenders also have rights, and that they can’t just make them leave a neighborhood,” McKilligin said. “I understand that to some extent, but I also don’t understand why they have to keep the bus stop in the front yard of a sexual offender. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Thursday, we received this statement from the Sarasota County School District:
“The Sarasota County School District is making changes to a school bus route in North Port due to the proximity of a registered sex offender near the bus stop. All students whose bus picks them up at the corner of South Salford Blvd. and Allure Lane will have a new bus stop at the corner of South Salford Blvd. and Barbary Lane in time for the first day of school on Aug. 12. The revision in routing may affect students attending Cranberry Elementary, Heron Creek Middle School and North Port High School. Pick-up and drop-off times for students will remain similar without delays. The Sarasota County Schools Transportation Department is in the process of notifying those families affected by the new location before school begins on Monday.”