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Court: Sex Offender Committed Crime by Serving on School Band Committee

3-4-2014 New Jersey:

A registered sex offender was guilty of a third-degree crime when he participated in a high school’s band “Pit Crew Committee,” according to a Feb. 24 appellate court ruling, State v. J.B.W.

Background J.B.W., a friend of a band member’s parent, was a registered sex offender and had been convicted of a sex offense with a person under age 18. He participated in the high school’s Pit Crew, a committee of a larger association organized for "charitable and educational purposes." The Pit Crew’s purpose was to promote interest in the school's band programs, and its members consisted of parents, guardians, and interested persons of members of the band programs. As a Pit Crew committee member, J.B.W. helped band members by transporting the band's equipment to various events.

Criminal law prohibits a sex offender who committed a sex offense with a victim under 18, from participating in a “youth-serving organization.” To do so is a third-degree crime. In this case, the question was whether the Pit Crew was a “youth-serving organization” in which J.B.W. was prohibited from participating because of his criminal conviction. The trial court had determined that he was prohibited from participating.

Ruling The court grappled with the question of whether the Pitt Crew in fact fell within the definition of “youth-serving organization.” The term, “youth-serving organization” is defined to mean “a sports team, league, athletic association or any other corporation, association or organization, excluding public and nonpublic schools, which provides recreational, educational, cultural, social, charitable or other activities or services to persons under 18 years of age." J.B.W. argued that the language excluding "public and nonpublic schools" excluded this organization.

The court found that although the association and its Pit Crew were affiliated with the high school in the sense that its members worked with school employees, that did not make the committee “a school.” Pit Crew members held positions and participated in the association, not the school. The court reasoned that if the Legislature intended to exclude associations that had connections with a school, it could have done so with specific language, but did not.

The court determined that the legislative intent of the criminal sanction was to deter persons who are unfit to provide services for minors from holding a position in an organization that is not a school, and noted that schools themselves are governed by separate laws addressing the acceptance of volunteers to exclude someone who is judged to be unfit.

The court agreed with the trial court that the Pitt Crew qualified as a “youth-serving organization” and that J.B.W. was guilty of a third-degree crime. This ruling of a three-judge appellate panel has been approved for publication and is therefore precedential. ..Source.. by School Board Notes

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