Parents in Cleveland, Texas, were outraged when they found out their children had been posing for pictures with a Santa Claus volunteer who, under the white beard and red suit, was a registered sex offender.
The community’s reaction has inspired the city manager to change Cleveland's policy regarding background checks, but the man’s actual crime -- and his name -- have not been revealed.
Emily Collins told ABC's Houston affiliate KTRK-TV about her family’s experience with the Santa Claus appearing at a city Christmas celebration.
“A friend of mine recognized the Santa Claus and informed me this morning of his name and that he is a registered sex offender," Collins said. "The biggest thing that I'm upset about is not to go after him. I mean he's done his time, whatever the charges were, however old he was, but that the city of Cleveland would not do a background check.”
Until now, the city ran background checks on library employees, but it did not screen volunteers in other city departments. The city manager told KTRK the municipality is “reviewing this information and is taking action to prevent this from happening again,” but it’s unclear as to whether the man actually posed any risk to the children with whom he posed in pictures.
The man was 12 years old when he was convicted of a sex crime, so his records are sealed, and Texas police have refused to release his identity in the face of public scrutiny, according to Click2Houston.com. The “Santa Sex Offender,” as he’s been called in Texas, has served time and was not deemed a threat to children by the Texas Sex Offender Registry so it’s unclear whether a background check would have kept him from being hired for his job.
Child-on-child sex-abuse statistics are difficult to determine because the news is almost never made public. It sometimes can occur when a child with little or no sexual knowledge is first victimized by an adult and then similarly abuses another child, according to the journal Psychology in the Schools.
In this case, the fact a registered sex offender of any kind was in proximity to their childen without their knowledge naturally terrified parents in the Cleveland area.
“I don't want anyone with a background like that even holding my child, much less talking to him or anything like that,” Ashley Trahan told Click2Houston.