The following is the text of a letter from a mother, whose son (a person required to register as a sex offender) was prevented from pursuing his education, because of his status. It has been redacted to remove personal information, but the name of the school remains in case anyone wishes to contact the school or their legislators to encourage policy change.
I am writing to update you on the outcome of the hearing Chipola college conducted for my son upon his re-application for admission. To refresh your memory, my son applied, and was fully accepted to Chipola Community College for the Summer semester of 2018. He was completely honest on the screening questions of his application, allowed to register and pay for classes and then on the eve of his attendance was asked to come in to admissions to discuss his class attendance. It was then explained to him that he would be allowed to attend classes on the campus despite his legal issues. However, the college classes were highly dependent on the Canvas Learning System that required internet access that his circumstances at the time did not allow. His classes were therefore cancelled, although he was in the process of requesting internet access. It was explained to him that once he regained permission for internet use, he could simply re-register for his classes. That was not the case. In addition to dropping him from his classes, they completely expunged his admission record without notifying him.
Within a few weeks he was granted full access to use the internet and with excitement, signed on to the college website to re-register, as instructed, but was surprised to find there was no record of his admission! Deciding this was inadvertent and with anticipation to start classes, he submitted his application once again. A few weeks went by with no response, so he began to call the college to inquire about his admissions application. His inquiries to the college went unanswered.
Feeling a sense of urgency, he decided to go in person to the college to inquire about the upcoming registration deadline. He was surprised, met with resistance, and was presented with completely new requirements for attendance. He was informed he would have to first attend a hearing of college administrators and law enforcement personnel. Although disappointed and nervous, he decided this was something he would have to face. After all, those in attendance were educated and would review his unique circumstances. Being advocates of “Higher Education,” certainly they would be inclined to help any motivated and qualified individual advance their learning and gain those skills necessary to help them be productive, independent and successful members of society. Surely this is the purpose of higher education, to benefit society by lifting people from poverty and dependency to independence and success. Or so he thought.
I was unable to attend the hearing as I am also a student of FSU in Tallahassee, but he assured me he was confident and positive that things would work out. His confidence grew from the positive interactions he had previously had with admissions, innocently naive to the fact they had been deceitful and were giving him the “run-around” for weeks; time he could have used to apply to other educational institutions. I too did not fully appreciate the rejection he had received, but rationally thought a hearing with a group of educated individuals in social, educational, and criminal justice issues would easily understand and advocate the proven path to lower recidivism rates for ANY and ALL crimes, which is to oﬀer the oﬀender a way back, develop meaningful social and community ties, encourage education, support employment, housing and other necessities, and facilitate independence and self suﬃciency. Weeks later I was stunned to see this would not be the case!
There are no words to express the deep hurt and disappointment I feel toward those so entrusted to be stewards for the betterment of our children, community and yes, to some extent the world, by educating, supporting and encouraging the minds of our youth, and who, I feel, have failed miserably in their responsibilities.
My son took with him many positive and glowing character references. Among those were letters on his behalf from Senator Don Gaetz, Lt Col Landfair (U.S. Air Force), Alex Urbelis, a prominent civilian attorney, and former attorney within the Oﬃce of General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Guy Hamilton Legal Fellow of the Sex Oﬀense and Policy Resource Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. In addition to many other letters of positive report, he openly shared his charges and exclusive details pertaining to his particular case. Details such as he did NOT intentionally commit the alleged oﬀense, and that the charged oﬀense was NOT violent in nature. It should have been noticed that he was completely honest and forthright with everyone during the entire process. He did not, and does not, pose a threat to anyone, and had adjudication of guilt withheld (which is NOT a given or usual in cases of Nolo Contendere with these types of charges).
In closing, I want to share a few thoughts on the outcome and emphasize that my son NEVER intentionally committed these acts or lied to anyone throughout the entire legal process, nor to Chipola for that matter! Apparently these are rare and exceptional traits as the oﬃce of admissions administrator(s) of the college deceived my son about how easily obtainable approval to attend classes would be after simply regaining internet privileges. I whole heartedly believe the decision for his rejection to the college had been made the minute the college lied to him about his re-registration process, further evidenced by expunging his admission records without notification and then refusing to return his calls.
In addition, expanding on their egregious deceptions to a naive young man striving to better himself, they quickly convened a hearing knowing they would never allow his admission to move forward and used it instead to intimidate, embarrass and humiliate a young man looking for redemption and amelioration to better his life. Isn’t this the very essence of why our society hates those marked as SO?? Being programmed with a belief that “they all” intimidate, dehumanize, deceive and use their position of power and trust over their victims; over the helpless for their own sick pleasures? And yet this institution of higher learning apparently cultivates and displays these very characteristics!!
I find it ironic and sickening that those poised as educational leaders, are actually the ones guilty of these very transgressions due to their bloated sense of self righteousness. With complete apathy and arrogance, they’ve devastated a sincere young man who trusted their leadership and word, looked forward with hope and anticipation for the future, and presented an appeal with bended knee, requesting an opportunity to become something diﬀerent than the horrible and devastating label he has been given! Even worse, how do we expect anyone to ever do better, if we impede every possibility of them doing so? Surely my son’s potential is greater than a youthful foley at age fifteen where he never knew or intended to harm anyone!
To say I am saddened and angered by the inquest is an understatement! I have thought to appeal their decision based on letters from his probation oﬃcer and his court mandated counselor, aﬃrming in their minds that he is NOT a danger to fellow students or society! But I no longer believe that the deep seated and dogmatic traditions displayed by Chipola College can be overcome by letters, extensive research, professional judgments or demonstrated facts. And what would it accomplish if I should fight and win? An organization so deeply flawed in its’ fundamentals would be full of excuses and constantly looking for ways to simply have him removed or otherwise obstruct his record as a matter of defensive pride and haughtiness. And therein itself lies the bigger problem, an institution engrained in the emotional fads and sensationalism of the dark ages, without light or vision for the future with respect to truly investigating, advancing or curing the ills and problems of modern society. But rest assured, our pride and arrogance can only last so long, then we have no recourse but to turn our roles and society over to the monsters we are creating. That will be our legacy to consider for eternity.
I apologize for taking so much of your time, but appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts. I pray that the progressive change sweeping the country such as the “First Step Act” and electing DAs’ who strive to end mass incarceration and fruitless retribution, will someday make it’s sidle approach into the dark crevices of this college’s administration, considering that redemption and rehabilitation makes us all better and safer.