If nobody challenges Girard's attempt to ban sex offenders from Halloween activities, it will be interesting to see if other local communities follow.
Girard City Council passed legislation that prohibits registered sex offenders from taking part in any trick-or-treat events. Fourth Ward Councilman Thomas Grumley introduced the legislation in early October. His ordinance received an emergency passage so that it would go into effect for this year's trick-or-treat.
Police delivered a copy of the law to all 10 registered sex offenders who reside in the city. Police were to explain that nobody in those households are permitted, from midnight Oct. 30 until midnight Oct. 31, to decorate for Halloween, use any outdoor lights, distribute candy or even answer the door for trick-or-treaters. A driving force behind the law is that seven of the sex offenders have convictions involving minors.
Violations are minor misdemeanors.
Such bans are not new.
In July 2005, Illinois passed a state law barring registered sex offenders from participating in any holiday event involving children. It prohibits sex offenders from dressing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, for example.
During Halloween, sex offenders are not allowed to distribute candy to children. Unlike Girard, in Illinois the law gives leeway to sex offenders who are parents or legal guardians of children living in the home and other household members can participate in Halloween activities.
Wisconsin has a similar law. In Walworth County this year, eight registered sex offenders were arrested for allegedly violating the law that requires them to be home from one hour prior to trick-or-treat until one hour after trick-or-treat and to display a state-issued, florescent pink, 8-1/2-by-11 sheet that states ''no trick-or-treating at this residence.''
Stings to catch and arrested offenders are also common throughout the U.S.
Laws like Girard's undoubtedly go a long way toward helping communities, especially parents, feel safer. They also provide convenience for those who find it difficult to use sex offender registry Web sites to keep track of those with a history of preying on others.
There is also some material that groups like the American Civil Liberties Union might challenge. Rights groups could argue that sex offenders have been ostracized enough and that such laws prohibit free speech.
But the Illinois law's seven-year existence indicates such challenges are either extremely rare or unsuccessful. If Girard doesn't face any soon, then more local communities are likely to follow this example, and state legislators could even make these rules uniform across Ohio.