Dear Santa: Are You A Sex Offender?

Hi Readers — What’s Christmas without a little overkill, this time at the hands of the U.S. Postal Service? It is acting to keep our children “safe” — and joyless! That’s the true spirit of the season, the way things are going.

The Post Office is afraid of sex offenders responding to childrens’ letters to Santa– admittedly a concern, but compared to having volunteers answer  mountains of letters from needy children? As they have for decades? And what are the chances a Santa letter to a child along with some toys would wind up a horrible tragedy?

To me it’s another case of “protecting” kids that leaves the vast majority far worse off — just like when we take  all the merry-go-rounds off all the playgrounds just in case someone, somewhere could fall off. We’ve “protected” the kids, yes. Mostly from a joy.   Here’s the story, from the Associated Press:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Starry-eyed children writing letters to the jolly man at the North Pole this holiday season likely won’t get a response from Santa Claus or his helpers.

The U.S. Postal Service is dropping a popular national program begun in 1954 in the small Alaska town of North Pole , where volunteers open and respond to thousands of letters addressed to Santa each year. Replies come with North Pole postmarks.

Last year, a postal worker in Maryland recognized an Operation Santa volunteer there as a registered sex offender. The postal worker interceded before the individual could answer a child’s letter, but the Postal Service viewed the episode as a big enough scare to tighten rules in such programs nationwide.

People in North Pole are incensed by the change, likening the Postal Service to the Grinch trying to steal Christmas. The letter program is a revered holiday tradition in North Pole, where light posts are curved and striped like candy canes and streets have names such as Kris Kringle Drive and Santa Claus Lane . Volunteers in the letter program even sign the response letters as Santa’s elves and helpers.

North Pole Mayor Doug Isaacson agreed that caution is necessary to protect children. But he’s outraged North Pole program should be affected by a sex offender’s actions on the East Coast—and he thinks it’s wrong that locals just found out about the change in recent days.

“It’s Grinchlike that the Postal Service never informed all the little elves before the fact,” he said. “They’ve been working on this for how long?”

The Postal Service began restricting its policies in such programs in 2006, including requiring volunteers to show identification.

But the Maryland incident involving the sex offender prompted additional changes, even forcing the agency to briefly suspend the Operation Santa program last year in New York and Chicago .

The agency now prohibits volunteers from having access to children’s family names and addresses, said spokeswoman Sue Brennan. The Postal Service instead redacts the last name and addresses on each letter and replaces the addresses with codes that match computerized addresses known only to the post office—and leaves it up to individual post offices if they want to go through the time-consuming effort to shield the information.

Anchorage-based agency spokeswoman Pamela Moody said dealing with the tighter restrictions is not feasible in Alaska.

“It’s always been a good program, but we’re in different times and concerned for the privacy of the information,” she said.

Moody stressed that kids around the world can still send letters to Santa Claus. The Postal Service still runs the giant Operation Santa Program in which children around the world can have their letters to Santa answered, and the restrictions do not affect private organizations running their own letter efforts.

But what will change are the generically addressed letters to “Santa Claus, North Pole” that for years have been forwarded to volunteers in the Alaska town. That program will stop, unless changes are made before Christmas.

Those letters will still be forwarded to volunteers but it’s unclear yet if anything will be done with them. Those intercepted by the postal service will probably eventually be shredded.

 

NEW NEW NEW:
Hi Readers: Here’s a little update.
The elves up north are fighting back.

28 Responses

  1. I seem to recall that last year here in Canada there was a case where a kid got some kind of explicit letter from our program, but I don’t recall all the details. But I bet we are still going to have it this year.

  2. As we know, the national “sex offender” registry also contains folks who urinated in public (I go to Penn State, so that’s just about everyone on a football weekend), had sex at 18 with their 16 year-old girlfriend, etc. It also includes adult sex offenders who are not pedophiles, but prey on other adults. Does anyone know the numbers on this? What percent are actually “after our children”?

    Another overreaction by our fear-based society.

  3. So, they think that these people are going to fly all the way down there to the lower 48 just to molest some kids who wrote a letter? Or do they think the fake Santas are going to write nasty things in their responses?

  4. This is so horribly sad. Poor kids.

  5. here’s what boggles my mind- a sex offender (maybe not even a pedophile) in MARYLAND is cause to shut down the program in ALASKA! i’ve read about the folks in north pole several times over the years- their whole town gets involved and they LOVE being able to delight a child on christmas. how many sex offenders are there in north pole? it’s a small town- why not weed out the pedophiles and let the rest of the town do their thing? is it fair to punish a whole town and countless children because there MIGHT be a deviant?

  6. It was actually two years ago that Canada Post had their problem with a “rogue elf” (http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSHAR45996620071214)

    I hope the people of Alaska can get this sorted out. If Canada has 11000 volunteers answering these letters I’m sure the program in the US is much much bigger. That said, one security problem in 50 years (who didn’t even get to mail letters) really isn’t much of an outrage.

  7. Is there anything we can do? A petition, or someone to write? This is terrible!

  8. So stupid and so sad. My cousin recently got caught peeing in an alley at 4 PM. He was walking home from a party, and was trying to be responsible by not driving. Now, unless he can get the charges dropped, he is a sex offender. I personally don’t know a man who hasn’t peed outside at one time or another. So basically, ALL men in the U.S. qualify as sex offenders, including my son at age three.

    Now, thousands of children will end up getting no reply because there is a slim possibility they may get an offensive letter? *sigh* The letter itself offers no risk. Child molesters can walk by any public school or day care to find kids, they don’t need this program to locate one.

  9. Another sad story. Our grandkids are going to have miserable, boring lives.

  10. @Mae Mae at least they will be safe

    -yes, that is snark at it’s finest.

  11. I’m so glad to see this here! I saw it yesterday and am writing it up right now for Babble.

    What makes me so crazy about this is that the trigger event was THE EXISTING SAFEGUARDS WORKING. Please excuse the all caps, but really! This paranoia has gone way too far when you have apparently rational people looking at the system and saying, “hey, our program to weed out sex offenders from our letter-writing volunteers works. we caught one before that person ever answered a letter. better cancel the program now!”

    WTF! Not even to mention that letter writing is not exactly a full contact sport. Or that “sex offender” is a broad category that includes, as someone mentioned above, drunks peeing in public as well as pedophiles. Or that…never mind.

    Now that I’ve blown off some steam, I can hopefully write a decent article about this.

  12. If you are really worried about your kid getting a letter like this, read any letters they get from unknown persons first. Otherwise, it would be a pretty awful thing for a child to be surprised by an obscene letter from Santa, but at least it would be an opportunity to teach them about some of the bad realities life before they are really hurt by it. A child exposed to something like this would certainly be hurt, but I reject the idea that brief encounters with evil “scar a child for life” if properly handled by the positive adults in his life.

  13. It’s happening everywhere. I vounteer with Habitat for Humanity and we spent an entire meeting going over new guidelines that protect children on the build site from possible volunteer that could be sex offenders.

    The funny part? Children must be 15 years old to be on the build site.

    You should have seen the outrage when I piped up and mentioned, “Uh, shouldn’t the 15 year old be saying, “Don’t touch me there, you pervert. I mean there are always tons of people on the work site. I’ve never seen any lonely sheds or places where the kids could be lured to.”

    Alas, volunteers must now be fingerprinted. Another battle of sanity lost…still we keep fighting the war.

  14. Here’s an idea, send a seperate letter to the parents a few days before you send the Santa letter, asking them to proofread the letter when they receive it before it reaches their child. Then just stick it back in the envelope and reseal it. Heck you could even send the parents a cute sticker to use to reseal the other envelope!

    Just ridiculous.

  15. If you would like to express you opinion about this change in the Postal Service, I think your best bet is to send a letter to the Postmaster General. A real letter, not an email.

    His address is
    Hon. John Potter, Postmaster General
    U.S. Postal Service
    475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
    Washington, DC 20260-0010

    If you really feel strongly about it, then take the time to tell the person in charge. Be sure to use polite language and stay to the point.

  16. What makes me so crazy about this is that the trigger event was THE EXISTING SAFEGUARDS WORKING. Please excuse the all caps, but really! This paranoia has gone way too far when you have apparently rational people looking at the system and saying, “hey, our program to weed out sex offenders from our letter-writing volunteers works. we caught one before that person ever answered a letter. better cancel the program now!”

    This.

  17. Call me crazy, but isn’t a background check a standard procedure when someone applies for a job. A sex offender shouldn’t have got the volunteer letter answering job to begin with.

    Then again, the registry gives no details about what kind of offender we’re talking about. Someone who raped grannies is a sick person, but no threat to kids the way people assume when they hear the word sex offender.

  18. I haven’t read all the comments yet….but did anyone notice that two or three days before this news was published, the postal service officially petitioned congress for the first time to cease saturday delivery (something they’ve been contemplating for at least a decade) because they’re something like 4 BILLION in the hole?
    The riduculousness of this maryland-vs-alaska rationale stands out as a red flag that should be screaming “LOOK DEEPER!” It’s all about the money Honey,

  19. Tana, there are 26 registered sex offenders in that town. I glanced at a couple and some offenses are over 15 years old. Seriously? They’re still on the list? How long before they get to be removed?

  20. HOORAY!!!! SANTA CLAUS LIVES!!!!

    For once, common sense rules the day!

    CHRISTMAS IS BACK ON, people!!!

    http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-national/20091119/US.Santa_s.Mail.Canceled/

  21. YAY!!! Santa mail is back on!

  22. Inane. The good news is that Canada Post still maintains a similar program and it’s open to letters from kids worldwide:

    Santa Clause
    North Pole, Canada H0H 0H0

  23. Hate to say this, but anyone could write an explicit letter to a child and not be on a sex offender registry. So what happens then?

  24. […] Freerangekids : Dear Santa: Are You A Sex Offender? […]

  25. In answer to what percentage of SO’s are truly considered dangerous: 5%. Five percent.

    http://www.pacwar.org/news.html
    http://www.pacwar.org/study.html

  26. You wouldn’t believe this but I have lost all day searching for some articles about this. You’re a lifesaver, it was a interesting read and has helped me out to no end. Cheers, <a href="http://ezinearticles.com/?Funny-Christmas-Songs-For-Children—Groove-King-Senseless

  27. Good posting, I favorited your blog so I can visit again in the future, Thanks

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