IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Some kindergartners in Ionia wait for their school bus in front of a convicted sex offender’s house.
Jessica Doty, the mother of two of those children, contacted 24 Hour News 8. She said transportation officials refused to change the bus stop location for her five and six-year-old.
The stop is just feet from the address listed for Gerald Wieczorek, a man convicted of crimes involving someone younger than 16 years old, according to the Michigan State Police Public Sex Offender Registry.
“I did a quick search on the Michigan State (Police) sex (offender) registry and it popped right up,” Doty explained.
She said she moved down the road less than a month ago and quickly discovered the troubling news.
“I’ve spoken with the bus garage and they told me that they’re not going to move the stop,” she said last Thursday.
However, that story changed when 24 Hour News 8 spoke with Ron Wilson, the superintendent of Ionia Public Schools. He didn’t want to do an interview on camera, but said over the phone that he was unaware there was a sex offender’s home so close to the stop.
Wilson said he learned of the concern from transportation staff and began working with the transportation director to move the bus stop for Doty’s children closer to their home.
“They [the district transportation department] didn’t seem concerned,” Doty said. “They told me that he [Wieczorek] had been there for many years and they have never had an issue with him.
“Usually when you get these weird news stories about something, that’s the first thing that anybody who knows the person says is — ‘Well, I’ve never had an issue with them; that surprises me,'” she added.
The bus stop location changed for Doty’s kids, but the rest of the group of kindergarteners still catch the bus near the sex offender’s home. Wilson said that stop is closer to those students’ houses. He also said it’s difficult to avoid all sex offenders’ homes because of how many sex offenders there are.
While the district responded to her concerns, Doty still worries about what could happen to other kids facing similar situations.
“My daughter is easy to talk to. She thinks everyone’s her friend. She’s naive and she doesn’t think anybody’s bad person. If he simply tried to get her into his house, she would go – no questions asked,” she said.
Doty said she talks to her kids about strangers, but her daughter is only five years old.
Target 8 looked into a similar situation in Wyoming back in 2013. Back then, school officials in multiple West Michigan districts also cited similar difficulties. Some schools mentioned that there may be new sex offenders in the area mid-school year, which could create constant rerouting.
Sex offenders can’t live, loiter, or work within 1,000 feet of a school, but there are no state guidelines for bus stops.