The Page 16 story regarding a convicted sex offender’s registration violation should cause pause for all of us who have or know children whose wellbeing we are responsible for or concerned with. Whether Fred Leslie Kirk’s motives when registering for a Facebook account were innocent or not, we will never know. However, we do know he broke the law by not reporting his account to the West Virginia State Police. And this is not his first registry violation either. We were disturbed when researching for this story to find one of our own reports on Mr. Kirk from 2010. Back then, the Wetzel Chronicle reported on Mr. Kirk receiving prison time for being around children – he was employed by Deschler Amusements and was spotted at Town & Country Days, helping children on and off rides. This was the second of Kirk’s violations. He was previously charged in 2009 for failing to register as a sex offender. That stemmed from his original conviction in 1998 for sexual abuse by a custodian.
Kirk will be sentenced for this most recent violation, and we trust the court’s judgement. However, as parents and guardians – as responsible adults – we ought to take this as a sign to remain alert, especially when it comes to the internet, and specifically social media use. Teenagers, and even pre-teens, are “connected” now more than ever. This type of technology is convenient and constantly evolving. And just as motives can be sinister in the “real world,” they can be even more-so online, with the cover of anonymity.