Dear Members and Advocates,

What makes school zones “safe” for children?

Residency restrictions and proximity ordinances preventing persons required to register as sex offenders from living or even entering within thousands of feet of a school somehow create the illusion that once inside the exclusion zone, our children will be safe from sexual assault. Nothing can be further from the truth. We see this example over and over again, most recently in the case of a Tampa, Florida teacher who was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday for secretly recording more than 125 of his students changing clothes. The day before, a different teacher in Tampa was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a minor student.

Ironically, the schools where the crimes took place were within a “safety zone”. The safety zone is established by County Ordinance Section 36-307, as an area around certain places, including public and private schools, where a “predatory individual” cannot be present. According to the definitions in the ordinance “Predatory individuals” shall mean sexual offenders, sexually violent predators and sexual predators. Here the “predatory individuals” were teachers.

As if the Hillsborough County School System didn’t have enough, just a couple weeks before, one of their high school basketball coaches was caught in a “human trafficking sting”. And apparently it’s not just teachers working for Hillsborough County Schools, committing sexual crimes there. Another teacher from Queens, NY travelled to Hillsborough County to allegedly have sex with a 16 year old. I’m including links to the actual news stories in this weekly update because if I didn’t it would be too hard to believe.

It would be notable if it were an aberration that all these teachers and coaches are committing sex crimes in one single Florida county during one single month period, but it’s not an aberration at all. It happens at all times and in all cities and counties. During the past few weeks it’s been a teacher in Okaloosa County,  a teacher in Palm Beach County, a teacher in Pinellas County, a teacher in Charlotte County, and a teacher in Highlands County. And we shouldn’t just harp on Florida, because a simple Google search will turn up dozens of stories each month nationwide. We should also not just harp on teachers, because we can fill pages with links to news reports about police officers or other professions entrusted with protecting our vulnerable.

The point here is not to castigate teachers or law enforcement officers. As we’ve always said, the overwhelming majority of those in these professions (as is the case with the overwhelming majority of those on the registry) are not the ones who will be committing sex offenses. The point is that neither the “safety zone” established by the ordinance, nor the definition of “predatory individuals” contained in the ordinance, were even remotely useful in preventing these crimes. Residency restrictions, proximity ordinances and even the registry itself create an illusion that they somehow make us safer, but they don’t. These are things the government should study and evaluate, right?

As it turns out, they do. Since 2005, when they were first mandated to, the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) is required to put out a “Sex Offender Registration and Monitoring Triennial Review”. That means every three years they are required to study the registry and its effectiveness. The last study was done in 2018 (the one before in 2015), which means that in December of this year, OPPAGA will be coming out with a new study. In anticipation, FAC will be furnishing the office with some reports, cases, studies and feedback from our population which we hope will be reviewed and considered in their preparation of the forthcoming report. If you are aware of research you think would be useful to consider, please share it with us over the coming weeks. We also ask anyone who would like to offer a statement on how the registry impacts them or their family, friends, employers/employees or others, to send it in to us so we can compile the statements into a single booklet that can be considered in aggregate.

If we’re asking ‘what makes school zones safe for children’, we expect OPPAGA to give us that answer.

Sincerely,

The Florida Action Committee


Reminders:

Research Studies – Voluntary Participation.

Shelley Kavanagh (Doctorial Candidate) is conducting one-on-one phone interviews with mothers of registered citizens living in Florida.  For more information about the study and how to schedule an interview, click here.

Monthly Membership Calls 

May 13 Thursday at 8:00pm ET – New Member Orientation Call – phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.

May 19 Wednesday at 7pm ET – Fearless Group – Peer-led discussion on releasing fears and building confidence.  To participate, call 727-731-2927.

June 3 Thursday at 8:00pm ET – Monthly Membership Call. Topic: Restorative Justice with Guest Dr Alissa Ackerman.  Phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.

June 12 Saturday – 11:00am-1:00pm ET. Therapist-led Family Support Session via Zoom. Limited participation. Email [email protected] or leave message at 833-273-7325 Option 1 for access to the Monthly group session.

Meet and Greets are Resuming:

Monday May 17 at 4-7pm in Tallahassee. Social Hour 4-5pm, Member meeting  5-6pm, presentation 6-7pm guest “The Travel Blogger” For location, RSVP to [email protected] or text to 904-452-8322 with your name and number attending.

Monday May 17 at 7-8pm – Primarily for Palm Beach / Broward / Miami-Dade members, however, all members are welcome to join.  Catch up on local issues and meet your local team. Call 319-527-3487. Any problem connecting, text “Call Me: to same number.  You will receive a call back and be connected to the meeting.

Saturday May 29 at 2-4pm in Fort Myers (Lee County) –  Meet your local team and members in a home setting.  For location, RSVP to [email protected] or text to 904-452-8322 with your name and number attending.

Need to Talk? 

FAC has peer volunteers that are here to talk one-on-one, call 904-452-8322.  Volunteers are not available 24/7 but you will receive a call as soon as possible.  If you have an emergency, call 911, or helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or a crisis center (Listing of Crisis Centers and Hotlines)


SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK

Marion County: You DO NOT need to provide this information.

A member from Marion County has reported that when registering, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office is requiring you to fill out a “supplemental report” that includes questions that ARE NOT required to be reported under Florida Statutes Sec. 943.0435 or 775.21. These…

South Africa: Warning against making register for sex offenders public

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has warned against calls to make public the national register for sex offenders. It is believed that making the register public would curb sexual offences against children, but according to the department, this…

Treatment in this area is complex, controversial.

Excerpts from a USA Today article. Experts say treatment exists for people who have a history of sexual offenses, but the path to changing behavior is complex and seeped in controversy. Camille Cooper, vice president of public policy at the Rape, Abuse & Incest…

VA: State Police warn of phone scams targeting registered sex offenders

State Police have recently been alerted of an increase in phone scams targeting sex offenders. Officials say the consistent theme among these scams has been phone fraudsters threatening people into paying large amounts of money in the form of gift cards. Police say…

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