A legal battle in a nearby county has McDuffie County School officials thinking twice about designating school bus stops.
When a federal judge ruled on July 25 that a new Georgia sex offender law should only be enforced in cases when school bus stops are officially designated by the school board, several counties did just that within hours.
McDuffie County wasn't one of those. And if Superintendent of Schools Mark Petersen's request is approved by the Board of Education, that won't soon change.
The new law is designed to prevent the state's 12,300 registered sex offenders - 34 of whom live in McDuffie County - from living within 1,000 feet of anywhere children gather. The inclusion of school bus stops in that list of prohibited places has kept the law embroiled in court battles since its passing.
"Frankly, I'm going to ask the board not to assign those bus stops at this time," Dr. Petersen said. "Columbia County did that, and they're entangled in the legal aspect of it. I'm not going to draw McDuffie County into that. We're going to wait, take a wait-and-see attitude. And we're going to continue to identify our bus stops as we have in the last 100 years."
He went on to say that the transportation department for McDuffie County Schools will identify where busses need to stop - some 1,140 spots - but any official designation of those should not take place at this time.
Despite his stance on the bus stop designation issue, Dr. Petersen was quick to point out that he thought the spirit of the the law was on target.
"The public needs to know that I think the thought of sex offenders in our public close to children is absolutely unacceptable," he said. "The question we have here is that it's tangled up in an election year in the courts. Then it's an unfunded mandate for the sheriff to move everybody."
The McDuffie County Sheriff's Department has also chosen the wait-and-see approach. According to Maj. Ronnie Williamson - the department's man in charge of compliance with the new law - there's no need to rush out and make people move now when a court could overturn the law.
"There's just so much unclear about what is the definition of an approved bus stop," Maj. Williamson told The Mirror in an interview shortly after the judge's ruling. "...There's a lot of issues that still, I think, have got to be litigated to get clarification on it before we start telling people to pack up and move."