Thursday, April 05, 2007

Something's Fishy About Sex Offender Story

The News-Leader ran a story on Wednesday, with a follow-up on Thursday, about a Missouri State University professor with a history of pedophilia. The News-Leader also provides a PDF of the MSU news release regarding the questioning of Greenwood Lab School parents by a student working on a class assignment.

The student involved, Ryan Cooper, has a history of, as Ron Davis puts it, "stirring it up."

He sued the university in 2003, claiming his conservative group, Young Americans for Freedom, was being discriminated against because of its "political and religious viewpoints."

Cooper is executive director of Missouri State Conservatives. In his Facebook profile he lists his political views as "very conservative," though he has insisted that he's more of a Libertarian than a Republican.

Cooper says he didn't intend for the professor's past to become public knowledge, and that he did not mention the professor's name when talking to parents. But Cooper does acknowledge that he found the professor's "name on a list and decided to talk to parents about the issue of having a sex offender on campus."

In Thursday's article, MSU administrators said there are possibly two students who are registered sex offenders. Why then did the university assume Cooper was referring to the professor as being the sex offender?

In the news release, "Nietzel said he assumed the person's questions relate to Dr. Michael Hendrix...." What led to that assumption?

I spent less than an hour going through the Missouri Sex Offender Registry kept by the Missouri Highway Patrol. Three persons list 901 S. National (MSU's address) as their "school address." Two others (in addition to Hendrix) list MSU as their work address. This means there are possibly six registered sex offenders at MSU, twice the number indicated in the News-Leader article. It is also entirely possible that not all six are still at MSU.

Cooper implies he found Hendrix's name only. That could mean he had an ulterior motive. Could it be that Cooper once took a class with Hendrix and didn't like something about it and this is his way of "paying back?" Because Hendrix teaches biomedical sciences and Cooper appears to be a journalism major, this seems highly unlikely.

Is MSU throwing Hendrix under the bus to distract from the other registered sex offenders on campus? Probably not. But why not fully disclose all known registered sex offenders? Why just Hendrix?

And finally, why didn't the News-Leader do what I did and check the sex offender registry list? They could also have pointed out that six registrants list Ozarks Technical Community College as their school address.

There is more to this story. We have all the information we need about Dr. Hendrix. We should have more about the other parties involved.