Each school day thousands of convicted felons enter Florida’s classrooms, but tracking them has proved nearly impossible for school districts, reports the Orlando Sentinel. No single agency keeps track of what happens to the children who leave the Department of Juvenile Justice, and local police don’t always tell school districts that felons have enrolled.
State officials have no idea how many of the 11,932 young felons released in 2001-2, including 2,727 on probation after being convicted of violent crimes, are in school.
Even deputy sheriffs stationed at the schools often don’t know who the felons are. “I wish we had some type of notification system [to school resource officers], but there is none,” said Sgt. Mike Ross of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re not notified by anyone. I’m not sure what the process is, but I’d like to see it improved for safety.”
The safety of schoolchildren who attend classes with convicted felons became an issue in Polk County when a 17-year-old student with a criminal background was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in the school auditorium. Parents were outraged that their children were in class with a child convicted of a violent felony — and that they had not been told.
Florida law requires that classroom teachers be notified about student felons in corrections programs, including probation, but it does not require the same notice to other students, parents, or even school resource officers. An Orlando Sentinel review of Central Florida’s school districts found few with any centralized system for tracking how many felons walk their halls.