Bloomington sex offender worked with children after record missed

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2009 - 12:55 AM

Despite a sexual misconduct conviction, Randy Ronning slipped through the cracks when he applied for a job in the Bloomington school system and later as a coach.

A convicted sex offender and former Bloomington youth sports coach recently charged with molesting two girls apparently slipped through a background check to work for Bloomington Public schools a decade ago.

Randy Lee Ronning, 36, of Bloomington, was charged last week with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct after a witness allegedly saw him molesting a girl in a motel room at a Bloomington Days Inn, where he was babysitting.

Police talked to one girl who said Ronning touched her inappropriately, while a second said that Ronning, her longtime babysitter, had molested her since she was 8 years old.

Ronning helped coach floor hockey in early 2008 and softball in the spring of 2006 for the Bloomington Athletic Association (BAA). The teams were for girls ages 8 to 10.

The BAA did not do a background check on Ronning, the group said. Police said they will work with the BAA on how to do such checks.

The revelation prompted police to send letters to parents whose children might have had him as their coach, though there was no evidence that Ronning committed any offenses while coaching, said Bloomington police Sgt. Mark Stehlik.

In 1992, Ronning was convicted of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Hennepin County. Police say that although the circumstances were different, that crime also involved a juvenile female. Police say a background check would have revealed that conviction.

Despite the existence of that record, the Bloomington public schools system hired Ronning in June 1999 to work as a school bus aide in the transportation center. Though his 1992 conviction should have stood out on a background check, it slipped by, said Bloomington Schools spokesperson Rick Kaufman.

Kaufman said that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension performs the school system's background checks and that no offenses by Ronning were found.

"Had that conviction shown up, I can guarantee you he would not have been hired to work in the district," Kaufman said.

Julie Lackner, Minnesota Court Information System manager for the BCA, said the background check was performed too long ago to determine exactly what went wrong.

"The reason that might happen is law enforcement is required to report arrests to us by submitting fingerprints and demographic data," Lackner said. "If for some reason they don't fingerprint [a defendant] or don't submit the records, we will not have a record."

Ronning's duties as a part-time bus aide included transporting disabled children to and from the bus before and after school and during field trips. He was never left alone with the children, Kaufman said.

He resigned in October of 2000. There was no disciplinary action on his record, Kaufman said.

Upon learning of charges against Ronning, Bloomington school officials ran his name through their database. When they learned he was a former employee, they contacted police. The school does not plan to notify parents of children who may have ridden the bus at that time, Kaufman said.

"We feel very confident that the Bloomington Police Department has done an adequate job of sharing information and asking those with information, or victims, to come forward," he said.

Ronning was in the Hennepin County jail Thursday in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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