SEX-OFFENDER ALERTS VIA E-MAIL (Longwood school district now using Internet instead of post cards to send residents information)
The Longwood school district is the first to adopt an e-mail alert system that notifies subscribers when a sex offender moves to any Long Island community. The postcard mailing service, which the district discarded last week, only advised residents when sex offenders moved into the district. The Parents for Megan's Law sponsored e-mail program increases the information parents can access about convicted sex offenders because the no-cost method informs subscribers when a registered offender moves into the school district or any other community. It is estimated that the district spent $60,000 on the mailings last year alone. Because the state recently began authorizing notifications on hundreds more offenders whose cases have been resolved, the district's costs would have increased, said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law. Ahearn's Stony Brook-based organization has the alert service available to anyone with an e-mail address. It informs subscribers of the whereabouts of offenders with a high and moderate risk of re-offending. Ahearn said there are about 2,000 local subscribers. She said more than 1,000 new subscribers signed up in recent weeks because the state has begun completing risk-assessment hearings for about 7,200 sex offenders statewide whose crimes were committed before January 21, 1996, the date Megan's Law went into effect. Ahearn said other school districts have expressed interest in adopting the e-mail alert service in recent weeks, if only to save money for education. Megan's Law is an unfunded mandate, Ahearn said. The school districts have been bearing the burden of notifying the community of resident sex offenders without any financial relief from the state.