Neighborhood reaction to registered sex offender moving near school in Yankton

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YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) — A sex offender – convicted of crimes against children – just moved into a house a block away from a Yankton elementary school.

Kenneth Stark got out of jail on Monday. He’s been in and out of prison since 1997.  He’s been accused of crimes in at least five states and several South Dakota cities. This isn’t the first time he’s made headlines in Yankton. He also moved there in 2007, the police chief chief sent out an email warning warning schools and city employees to be on the lookout.

“I don’t care if it’s fair to him. It’s fair to the community we live in. I’m not trying to ruin a man’s life but I’m not going to have some of our kids. And, I’ve got answers to the public. I’m a grandparent and a father and I want to know what’s out there,” said former chief Heeney.

More than decade later, Yankton parents have a lot of those same concerns.

Under South Dakota law, sex offenders need to live at least 500 feet from schools and parks. KELOLAND News measured the distance from Stark’s street to the street the school. According to google maps, it’s just a tenth of a mile, or 528 feet. While it may be legal, families in the area say that’s too close. 

It’s something no parent wants to hear- that a sex offender has moved into their neighborhood. Miranda Svatos is a mother of five and lives near Stewart Elementary School.

“Was super freaked out after what I read about him and everything like that, and yeah, just as a mother, super scared super angry and upset that they are allowing him to be living that close to a school or even in this area with all the offenses,” mom/lives in area, Miranda Svatos said.

The Yankton School district put an alert on its website to let parents know Stark moved in near the school. 

“They sent out to everyone and then I started getting texts from other mothers and friends of mine about it,” Svatos said.

KELOLAND News spoke with several neighbors who live in the area of the school, who didn’t want to go on camera but say this is concerning to them, especially since they see a lot of young kids walking home from school.  

Leaving parents including Svatos on high alert.

“He’s well away from the school that he’s supposed to be, but I feel like he’s still too close to Stewart School,” Svatos said.

We also reached out to Yankton’s superintendent. He tells us Stark was served a letter from the district, letting him know he is not allowed on school property. And, if he chooses to come onto school property he will be arrested. 

Here is the email KELOLAND News recieved from Yankton superitendent Dr. Wayne Kindle:

“As Superintendent I consider the well-being of our students as one of the most important aspects of my job.

The decision I made on Thursday morning to notify parents of the registered sex offender located at a residence very near one of our elementary schools was based on student safety.

Not only does this individual has a criminal record involving children, we have dealt with him before as a school and he intentionally chose to reside near a school upon his return which is equally concerning.

I appreciate our great relationship with local law enforcement and the fact they notified me immediately upon confirmation of his return to Yankton and location.

As a school and community we have a collective responsibility in my opinion to keep our children safe.

I would not do anything differently in this situation. We want to be proactive, preventative and inform as many folks in our community as possible with public information we can share for the benefit of our children. I would do it again with no hesitation.

The individual has also been served a letter from the Yankton School District through our school attorney that he is not allowed on any school property. If he chooses to come onto school property he will be arrested.”

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