Literally hundreds of you responded, some angrily, and the overwhelming majority of you agree:
There should be a law passed in New Mexico that requires some type of notification policy to alert the schools when possible sex offenders might be on their enrollments and roaming their halls.
New Mexico at the moment has neither a notification policy nor a law preventing young sex offenders already convicted of heinous crimes from returning to school.
All of this despite the risk it might impose on other students who could be the next victims in a criminal world where sex offenders are known to be in a high-percentage group for repeat offender status.
This issue came to light in a big way in recent weeks when first one, and then another local football player was found to be linked to serious offenses involving the sexual abuse of minor victims; a 13-year-old girl in one case, only a 5-year-old in another.
Making matters worse, both were headed back to school and the football team — one already having played three games into the season — until top school administrators were tipped off months later as to the criminal allegations against them. One young man, 18, admitted to his charges; the other, a 16-year-old, was convicted.
Opponents to the call for a notification law cite as their best reason a possible violation of civil rights for young offenders who could be rehabilitated or, in some cases, marked as a sex offender without being convicted.
Supporters of the notification requirement say fair warning to at least the school personnel supervising the alleged offender only makes common sense if there is to be any kind of serious effort made to protect school children. Adult offenders, they argue, would not be allowed anywhere near a school, so why should the law be any different for youth sex offenders?
Almost 400 readers responded to an online poll conducted on The Daily Times Web site, daily-times.com, and dozens more wrote letters to the editor by mail or e-mail.
Frankly speaking, some of the criticism directed at the newspaper for reporting this story went beyond constructive feedback and bordered on absurd, such as:
"After reading your personal column this a.m., I am irked. Upon joining the Times, your promise was to provide unbiased news coverage, and, according to your column today, there was a story to be told, and the Times told it.' However, the entire story was not told.
"You are condemning ... the boy 100 percent while bemoaning the angst of the poor little girl. ...
"Frankly, however, I'm shocked that the Times didn't have the genius to ask, and print, the answers to some questions. ... Did the little girl's clothing, demeanor, or actions, by any chance tease or lure the boy into thinking and acting upon something improper?"
Regardless of the earlier column having gone a great distance to express concern for both the girl and 18-year-old young man as victims, I find it offensive to suggest a 13-year-old rape victim's clothing should be the focus of the story. Not when the larger issue includes another case where the victim is only 5 years old.
The focus here is on sex offenders who take advantage of younger victims, and then whether the schools should have fair warning that sex offenders are in the classrooms.
Here are a few e-mail excerpts from other readers:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you ... a million times over. Thank you to your reporter for investigating the story. ... Thank you for your honesty and sensitivity written in your column. ... Thank you!"
"Wow, are you kidding? How your paper continues to stoop. ... Did you approve of this article? ... You're not the Washington Post. Whether you agree or not, you're a circulation in a still rather small community/region that must consider its ramifications to those your actions choose to cause harm to. ... Your paper needs to consider the ramifications it has on both the accused and the accuser. ..."
"I would like to thank you for the column you wrote ... too many are sweeping it under a rug. I believe this goes on throughout the athletic field all the way up to the pros and it needs to stop. The reporting of such incidents is one way to put a dent in corruptness in athletics. ...
"The schools and the athletic department need to be held to a higher standard than what they have been. Thank you for your editorial and reporting."
"There is enough hurt going around without your newspaper trying to ruin the possibility of an 18-year-old and a 13-year-old ever getting past what happened. ...
"Your actions in trying to make news out of a sad story don't assist anyone involved. ... I've raised seven children, and worked with teenagers for over 30 years. ... Even though I am the mother of daughters who have been molested and raped, I do not approve of your sensationalism."
"Thanks for the column ... The Rape of a Community.' After living in Farmington for the past 13 years I can understand the flack you caught. I want you to know that as far as I'm concerned, you did the right thing."
"I will include you in my prayers along with all those involved in this tragedy. It's hard to take a stand, but please know, you are not standing alone."
"It is reassuring to know that our local paper will not turn a blind politically correct' eye to these things.
"I and many in our community are very supportive of this refreshing viewpoint. Right is right and wrong is wrong."
"Although I'm a 1961 graduate of Central High School, I have lived in Asia for the past 34 years. I'm an aircraft test pilot. ...
"I commend you for calling 'em like you see 'em.' The victim, and only victim in this sad story, is the ... girl. People should not lose sight of the facts."
"Thank you for your compassion in remembering the 13-year-old girl in the football hero saga. Her life will be forever scarred. That incident slapped a lot of people in the face."
"The piece you wrote was phenomenal. I'm getting so angry about the way this country is allowing children to be treated. Thank you for shedding light on these problems.
"I hope the laws can start changing to convict those using the Internet against our kids, too."
"As per the invite in the paper, I wish to express my opinion:
"Law enforcement must notify public schools when a student is charged with a sex offense; plus there should be a law that blocks any sex offender from attending any public school; plus every sex offender, youth or adult, should be required to register as a sex offender.
"A sex offender is a sex offender, no matter what age!"
Finally, there is the poll.
Almost 400 unique voters, meaning no repeats from the same e-mail address, had signed on to vote as of 5:45 p.m. Monday.
The vast majority, or 92 percent, in more than a 9-to-1 tally voted yes, that there should be some type of notification system to warn schools of sexual offenders in their hallways.
Feel free to share that with your local legislator who will represent you in Santa Fe during the next state assembly.
Meanwhile, regardless of your viewpoint, thanks for sharing and participating in a forum subject very deserving of attention.
Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M. 87499; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.