Think this one through

A little bit of sex could cost college students in Missouri a chance to live on campus.

HB 1352 calls for tougher measures to crack down on registered sex offenders and keep them out of residence halls across the state.

While the idea of excluding convicted rapists and child pornographers sounds laudable, the language of the bill is broad. “Sex offender” is a lifetime term and while there are some predatory people who have a history of offenses, there is no provision for non-violent offenders or reformed offenders.

Say a 21-year-old student has a childhood sweetheart still in high school and they have consensual sex – the 21-year – old can be prosecuted for statutory rape. If convicted, this individual would no longer be allowed to live in the residence halls here or anywhere else in Missouri.

Most state schools require first-year freshmen to live on campus unless they are of a certain age, married, live with their parents or other similar circumstances. Will there be another exception clause allowing sex offenders to live off campus or will the state deny the student entry to college at all?

Sex offenders are already required to register with the state. Most do not. Should the bill pass, university housing will be responsible for the required sex offender history check. But if an offender doesn’t register, how can the school attain an accurate check?

The theory of excluding criminals from university housing is a good one. The definition lumps underage consensual sex with child predators. Ask any college student – sex happens.

Sex crimes are shameful, but turning the registration process into a witch hunt is inexcusable. Sentencing appropriate to the crime is far more effective than labels. Perhaps the House should be looking into how to enforce current sentencing laws rather than finding a way to blame institutions for accepting students to their housing programs.

Convicting and then keeping rapists and criminals off the street would be the simpler solution.