BRADENTON – The Florida Legislature passed bills late last week, containing measures to strengthen child protection in the Sunshine Sate, including provisions that require the words “Sexual Predator” to appear on the driver’s licenses of sexually violent predators, and terminate parental rights for those convicted and required to register with a designation as a sexual predator.
Under current Florida law, a statutory reference -- 775.21, F.S. -- appears on the driver’s licenses of sexual predators. Under SB 7005, a Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles package, the statutory reference will be replaced with the words “Sexual Predator.”
These measures were introduced at the urging of child protection advocate and sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book, who founded the non-profit advocacy group Lauren's Kids.
“This designation is a tool that we as community members – from law enforcement officers to TSA agents to teachers, daycare workers, doctors, nurses and everyone in between – can use to further protect the children and families of Florida,” says Book. “I believe a statutory reference is too benign. This is a scarlet letter that clearly states ‘WARNING! Keep this individual away from children!’ They are a clear and imminent danger, and parents and families have a right to know.”
House and Senate members also worked together to pass SB 1666, a bill that enacts sweeping reforms after the legislature and the Governor learned of the untimely, tragic and often violent deaths of 477 innocent children since 2008, as chronicled by the Miami Herald in its investigative series, Innocents Lost.
SB 1666 includes provisions to increase accountability for child protective workers and community-based care programs, create rapid-response teams to conduct immediate investigations into child deaths and measures to strengthen the state’s ability to remove a child from an unsafe home after parents have demonstrated patterns of abuse or neglect.
The laws also contain provisions which would eliminate the statute of limitations for certain sexual crimes committed against a child younger than 16; require college campuses to notify students and staff about sexual offenders who live nearby; and expand the identifying information sex offenders are required to provide to law enforcement to include such things as email addresses, screen names and information on the vehicles they drive.