Dear Members and Advocates,

The “Three R’s” (Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmatic), which form the pillar of primary education are about to get a companion, as legislators in Florida are looking to add “human trafficking” to the PreK – 12 curriculum. House Bill 259 is making its way through this legislative session and proposes to include “human trafficking” education in the public school system’s Health Ed curriculum. “Human Trafficking” seems to be the hot topic this year, but why has it bound to the forefront of legislative priorities?

According to Rep. Patricia Williams, one of the Bill’s sponsors, “this bill will help children learn the signs of dangers that are in their neighborhoods and in their schools.” Of course children need to be protected from harms and it is noble and well-intentioned to put forth legislation that will rescue children from sex slavery, but is human trafficking the significant risk to school children that it’s being made out to be or are there more prevalent dangers imperiling school children that should get priority?

Unquestionably, human trafficking is terrible and it certainly can’t hurt to devote some educational resources to it, but is it more prevalent in Florida schools than, say; shootings, suicides, bullying, drugs, dropouts or delinquency? Or could it be that the reason it is suddenly getting more attention is because lawmakers are capitalizing on a recent, highly-publicized story in order to earn political brownie points?

The Child Welfare League of America compiled some statistics in a report called, Florida’s Children 2017 and some are downright alarming. In Florida in 2015, 1,980,000 children lived below 200% of poverty. 13.8% of households in Florida experienced difficulty providing enough food due to lack of resources. In 2015, Florida had 283,806 uninsured children. In 2015, an estimated 12,000 children ages 12 to 17 were alcohol dependent. In 2014, approximately 56,000 children ages 12 to 17 needed but had not received treatment for illicit drug use. 62,148 children younger than 18 were arrested in Florida in 2015.

When you consider the enormous time and resources that were spent on the recent massage parlor stings and the millions of dollars spent annually on the sex offender registry, aren’t there more pressing issues concerning our state’s children that we should be paying attention to and shouldn’t studies be done to assess whether the millions of dollars spent on these efforts are yielding any results?

As the 2019 legislative session rolls along, we need to keep reminding our elected officials that they have a responsibility to ensure our State’s finite resources are devoted to the most important priorities and to projects that are effective – not feel-good fluff. Florida does not need another “registry” of Johns (as SB 540 proposes). In fact, we don’t need the registry we currently have! It’s a colossal waste of money and bloated with requirements that even the State’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability points out “contribute to offender instability and monitoring difficulties”.  For your legislator’s contact information, visit https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ .  Or download the complete list for the current Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives.  While they are still in session, let them know it’s time to reform the registry.

Please join us for our monthly member call this Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 8:00 PM where we will continue our discussion on supporting families of registrants. Our guest will be Shelly Kavanaugh and we encourage members to join, but more importantly, we encourage you to invite members of your family, friends and those in your support circle to join this call. The registry is not only difficult on those who are on it, but it’s difficult on those who love them. This year, Florida Action Committee is devoting focus to the people who support us and this member call should prove resourceful to them.

Sincerely,

The Florida Action Committee

 

SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK

 

CT: Lawmakers debate revamping sex offender registry

State legislators are debating whether they should make changes in the state’s sex offender registry, which was established in 1998. Former Republican state legislator Bob Farr of West Hartford and other advocates called Monday for approving the recommendations of the…

IL: Registrants indefinitely confined because they can’t find compliant housing, secure win in federal court.

A federal district court in Illinois handed a win to a group of persons required to register as sex offenders, who challenged the constitutionality of a policy of refusing to release persons who did not secure housing. Registrants brought suit challenging a policy…

Solicitation of prostitution registry dropped from House companion bill.

Yesterday, CS/HB 851 (the “Human Trafficking Bill”) advanced through the House with a notable exception; the “Solicitation of prostitution registry” was dropped. The bill was the Florida House of Representative’s companion to Lauren Book’s Senate Bill (which still…

Member Submission: SB 540 Human Trafficking

The following is a letter sent to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice (404 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100) by a member. She graciously shared the letter with us and gave us permission to share it with members.   Feb 21, 2019 Dear Committee…

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