Dear Annie: My daughter just learned that a registered sex offender is living next door to her and her family. She has a young son and daughter. We also have a pre-teen granddaughter living a block away. This offender has served a long prison sentence on multiple charges, at least one of which involved a minor.
This is extremely distressing to all of us. My daughter's kids are prisoners in their home. She can't let the children play in the fenced backyard unless an adult is out there with them all of the time. She can't even sell their house. The law requires full disclosure, so the sellers can't keep it a secret. Who will want to buy it?
Everything we have read on the subject indicates that sex offenders can't change. What can be done? Aren't there supervised living facilities for these people? We know they have rights, too, but what about the rights of the greater majority?
Could your experts give us advice? — Not Living in Peace in Tallahassee, Fla.
Dear Tallahassee: Even sex offenders get to have a home in a nice neighborhood. In fact, it is only in recent years that the community has been entitled to know about it.
According to the Polly Klaas Foundation, your daughter's family will have to be vigilant. Their Child Safety Kit will help (available at www.pollyklaas.org), but they also recommend a good physical skills training program such as radKIDS (www.radKIDS.org), which teaches kids how to spot the danger signals and how to escape if necessary. The family also can ask the police to come to their home and talk about general home security.
By the way, the Foundation also says it's a myth that all sex offenders always re-offend. It is the sexually violent predators who have the high recidivism rates.
Dear Annie: I suffered a stroke two years ago, and one of the many side effects is that I tire easily and am unable to walk more than a few feet. I've noticed in the women's public restrooms that the handicapped stall is always the farthest from the entrance. This means I not only must walk a greater distance, but I must also pass the opening and closing doors of the other stalls and risk being knocked into. Is there a logical reason for this placement? — Seated in the Back
Dear Seated: Our personal "Bob the Builder" says the reason for this inconvenient placement is floor space. The radius needed to maneuver a wheelchair makes it difficult to put the stall anywhere other than in a corner of the restroom. The entry corner would block the other stalls, which means the back corner is the only option. In spacious restrooms, the handicapped stalls can be closer to the front.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Just Wondering," who said two coworkers have been seen arriving at work together and being overly friendly. Why does everyone assume that because two members of the opposite sex spend time together that they are having an affair?
I am a married male and have had many business lunches with the same female coworker. I've heard the whispers about our "torrid affair," and it cracks me up. My wife is aware of these lunch dates and has no problem with them. Tell "Just Wondering" to mind her own business. — Miffed Manager in Michigan
Dear Miffed: "Just Wondering" knows it's none of her business, and she isn't looking to gossip. She was concerned that one of those coworkers could lose a job if the extremely flirtatious behavior signified an affair. But thanks for letting us know that where there's smoke, there doesn't have to be a fire. Sometimes it's just the neighbors having a barbecue.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2005. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.