(NASHVILLE, TN), May 24, 2011 — Legislation aiming to prevent criminals or sex offenders from serving in housing facilities in Tennessee’s colleges and Universities has been approved. The bill, sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), was passed as the General Assembly wrapped up its 2011 legislative session last week in Nashville.
Passage of the bill comes after a former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Resident Assistant was arrested on multiple felony charges connected to allegations that he burglarized dorm rooms and planted cameras, which residents later discovered and reported to campus police.
The accused Resident Assistant had a lengthy rap sheet and was already on probation after serving time in prison for charges like stalking, burglary, and arson. The University had not performed a background check, but has since changed their policy to include one.
The bill is named after one of the victims Kristen Azevedo, whose mother contacted Senator Gresham regarding legislation to address any future violations.
“These students were under very serious threat of harm,” said Senator Gresham. “This offender had an extensive and alarming history of crimes against women. Although I am pleased that the university system has developed a policy that includes background checks systematically, we need to put this in state law so years from now we do not become lax in ensuring student safety when it involves access to their rooms or apartments. I applaud Kristen and her family for coming forward to push for changes in our law to keep this kind of crime from occurring to any other students in the future.”
The bill requires all persons applying for employment in housing facilities at public colleges and universities to supply a fingerprint sample and submit to a background check by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It requires the applicant to cover the cost of the background check and authorizes the TBI to send the results to the university. Also, the bill prohibits individuals on the state’s, or another state’s, sex offender registry from being employed in a position that would give them access to students’ rooms and apartments at public colleges and universities.
“I am very thankful for all the work done by Senator Gresham to pass this bill,” said Azevedo, who lives in Senator Gresham’s legislative district. “Hopefully, as a result it will never happen to anyone again.”
Reference: Senate Bill 1648