The church has done an about-face on allowing that sex offender to be a volunteer at the parish which is right next door to the school, but the decision came only after a mother and daughter who knew of the man's past crimes complained. And when those complaints were ignored, they contacted authorities.
"The law is, you are a sex offender, you are a sex offender for life. You do not have a right to be on a school grounds. He can go to church. He can go to BINGO. He is not allowed to be on this school," parent Jenine Borrelli told ABC7 News. She was outraged when she saw registered Mark Gurries volunteering at her daughter's school.
Gurries was in the midst of hundreds of young children at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School in San Jose. He was volunteering during a fall festival fundraiser last month. "My 19-year-old was the one who noticed who he was. When we had asked to have him removed, the answer we got was, "He has a letter and he's allowed to be here,'" she recalled.
A sheriff's deputy ultimately escorted Gurries off the property, but didn't arrest him because they confirmed he had a letter from the Diocese of San Jose giving him clearance to be there. "This is one of the exceptions to the rule where that essentially you can be a sex registrant, but if you have written permission by a school administrator, you can be on campus," explained Sgt. Jose Cardoza with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.
A diocese spokesperson said the letter was written two years ago and at the time, the administrator in charge felt it was appropriate but on Thursday, the diocese issued a statement which read in part, "The letter by which he was able to be admitted as a volunteer is not consistent with the policies of the Diocese of San Jose."
Some parents at the school are fine with the church's position. "I'm assuming that he's probably part of the church and they've probably given him a second chance," parent Michael Tagatac said. Asked if he was OK with that, he replied, "I am if the church is."
Borrelli is furious the church gave Gurries special permission to be on campus and when she raised concerns, an administrator suggested it was her husband who should leave the school event. "You don't sweep things under the carpet. I'm sorry. And you don't kick my husband out, who's been here for 15 years, and let a pedophile here who has no children here," she told ABC7 news.
Aside from issuing a brief statement, Gurries is no longer allowed to be a volunteer at the parish. The diocese of San Jose did not respond to ABC7 News' requests for more information such as what factors led them to allow Gurries to volunteer two years ago and just as recently as last month. It is known that his wife held a teaching position at the school.