Tom Szad is a sex offender SO dangerous that when Vermont releases him this coming Friday, they are warning parents of blue-eyed, blond-haired boys of 12 or 13 to watch out. Really, Vermont? That's the best you've got?
Many parents have expressed concern in Szad's hometown of Springfield (the place he was originally headed) and even the police chief is warning people to be alert. So, what is a parent supposed to do with this information?
As the mom of a 5-year-old boy (with blond hair and brown eyes), it's hard to know how I might react to a warning like this if it described my son. For one, I might not allow him outside my house without me being right on top of him. But for a 5-year-old, that is pretty much par for the course anyway. But what about a 12- or 13-year-old? There is a whole other level of independence that has just been stolen from them.
It's the job of law enforcement to keep us safe, but the laws in Vermont essentially state that because he has done his time for his original crime (molesting a 13-year-old boy with autism), he is free to go. Just like that.
Vermont, unlike several other states, has no such thing as a "civil commitment" in which sex offenders who are considered a danger to the public are locked up beyond their prison sentences. Is it right? Probably not. But it's the reality. So what hell is a mom of a boy who meets this description supposed to do?
It's hard to even imagine. Short of keeping your son chained to you (and good luck with that at that age), there is very little that can be done. Sure, they can check in when they are out on their bikes or walking to school, but that age is such a vital time for boys (and for girls). It's a time of so much growth and the beginning of real independence.
To take that away from a child -- that sense of independence and vital time of separation -- seems so unfair. What's a mom to do? I have no doubt that there will be a lot of scared parents calling their sons 10 times a day on cellphones and wanting to know their whereabouts constantly. It's hard to imagine that their rights are somehow trumped by the "rights" of this sex offender.
Sure, this is the U.S. and we have to accept these laws, but my heart breaks for every mom who has to lose sleep over this or fear for her child's safety and happiness. This just seems so unfair.
What do you think should be done in this case?
Image via Vermont Department of Corrections