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Michigan Y Throws Out Sex Offenders

Muskegon, Mi — Since terminating 20 memberships whose names showed up on the Michigan State Police Sex Offender Registry, the Muskegon Family YMCA in Muskegon, MI, has been contacted by more than a half dozen Ys in Michigan and other states interested in instituting a similar policy.

“With 7,000 members, I was surprised that we had 20 pop up on the registry,” says Luke Seward, chief executive officer of the Y. “Our insurance company suggested we check our membership, and we felt like it was the prudent, responsible thing to do.”

Local Y staff compared the names in the area ZIP codes on the state's sex offender registry to the membership list.

In September, the board of directors approved the policy, and letters were mailed to terminated members. Some of the 20 who had their memberships terminated were part of family memberships, but only the individual was banned from the facility. About half of those with family memberships kept them, Seward says.

“Something like this used to take us two weeks to check, but now it's instantaneous,” Seward says. “We're screening all new members as they come in now and checking them against the registry. We have a commitment to run the entire list once a year to keep our records up to date.”

However, the new policy isn't foolproof, he says. The registry is only for Michigan, and not every sex offender reports when they move from state to state. Also, in many large cities, checking members against a sex offender registry may be a much more daunting task than it is in Muskegon, MI, Seward says.

The effort is well worth it, though, especially for family-centered Ys, he says.

“We haven't had any incidents, and we'd like to keep it that way,” Seward says. “If we're going to err, we'd like to do it on the side of caution. It's worth the price.”

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