Loophole allows sex offender to live near school

Loophole allows sex offender to live near school (Image 1)

Controversy and emotions are running high in Lebanon as a convicted sex offender continues to live near a school.

By law, a convicted sex offender can not live within 1,000 feet of a school, however, due to a loophole authorities can not force Robert Gibson, who is charged with sexual battery by an authority figure against a 13-year-old girl, to move.

According to police, Gibson established his residence near Byars Dowdy Elementary one year prior to being convicted of the charges; therefore he is allowed to continue living at his well-kept home.

Nashville's News 2 Investigates spoke to residents who said they are outraged Gibson does not have to abide by the law.

“To me, he's breaking the Tennessee state law,” resident Kim Fox said. “He is way too close to a school.”

She added, “With him this close to a school, it really concerns me with the over 700 kids in that school over there. It's not fair to those kids over there. It's not fair to my kids. It's not fair to the victim in this case.”

Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen said he is also concerned Gibson lives within feet of the elementary school.

“To me, you should not be able to live within a 1,000 feet of a school no matter what,” Bowen said. “Once you are convicted you should have to move. I'm sorry you are a sex offender.”

He continued, “It's very sad. Not sad, but scary. To me once you are a convicted sex offender and in this case it is a 13 year old child. I don't care, you should have to move and people are going to say rights, rights, rights, but you are a sex offender. We have to do whatever we can to protect our children.”

Despite concern by nearby residents and authorities, Gibson told Nashville's News 2 Investigates there is no reason for them to be worried.

“I had this place before I took the plea bargain. Not a conviction, but the plea bargain,” Gibson explained. “If I were a danger to that school, if as long as I have lived here, I would have already done something, wouldn't I?”

Fox said despite the loophole, she has met with her state representative once to discuss the law and plans to do so again in the near future to see if it can be amended.

Under present law, it is a Class E felony offense for any sexual offender whose victim was a minor to establish a primary or secondary residence or any other living accommodation, knowingly obtain sexual offender treatment or attend a sexual offender treatment program or knowingly accept employment within 1,000 feet of the property line of any public school, private or parochial school, licensed day care center, other child care facility, public park, playground, recreation center or public athletic field available for use by the general public.

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