April 17, 2015

FSCJ changed policy to restrict sex offenders, bar sex predators from campuses

4-17-15 Florida:

Florida State College at Jacksonville has implemented a policy that mandates sex offenders go through an additional application process while baring sexual predators from enrolling.

The change comes after a state database indicated more sex offenders enrolled at FSCJ than at any other Florida college or university.

That unflattering distinction occurred when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement created a database that allowed the public to search college campuses for enrolled sex offenders in the fall of 2013.

A person is classified a sex offender if they are found guilty of crimes including child pornography and sexual performance of a minor. A person is classified as a sex predator if he or she is found guilty of sexual battery on a child or two lessor sex crimes.

The database identified 53 sexual offenders or predators enrolled at the college. About 52,000 students are enrolled at FSCJ.

FSCJ officials said the college is one of 28 open-access colleges in the state. Open-access means there are no set requirements besides a high school diploma or its equivalent to enroll in classes. Other programs, such as adult high school and post-secondary education, don’t require a high school diploma.

By law the college is mandated to educate anyone who would be a benefit to the community. However, the college also is bound by law to provide a safe environment.

FSCJ already began looking at how it enrolled sex offenders and predators before the FDLE’s database became public, according to a November 2013 Times-Union report.

FSCJ’s provost Judith Bilsky said 17 sexual offenders and three sexual predators currently take classes at the school. All of them were grandfathered into the college, but will be required to meet with the dean of student success and a security officer, according to the new policy.

She said the college spent about five months discussing the policy with campus presidents, security staff and risk management among other officials.

Jill Johnson, FSCJ spokeswoman, said the new policy took affect April 2014. She said all employees were notified of the policy change.

There wasn’t college-wide awareness effort for students, she said.

However, each sex offender or predator meets with campus security at the beginning of a semester, and security officers are well aware of the offenders and predators.

The policy requires all sex offenders who want to enroll to apply by April 1. They can only start taking classes in the fall semester.

“Required documents include the sexual offenders’s criminal history, arrest reports, letters of reference, judgement and sentences for all offenses the applicant is subject to, any supporting documents that applicant deems appropriate and an authorization executed by the applicant to conduct a criminal and other appropriate background checks,” the policy reads.

Completed applications will be forwarded to a Threat Assessment Team for review, which will provide a recommendation to the vice president of the college. The vice president will make the decision to accept or deny the application.

“There is no appeal of a decision to deny admission or enrollment,” the policy reads.

Bilsky said the new policy doesn’t deviate from the college’s mission as an open-access educational institution. She said of the number of sex offenders at the college is a miniscule amount compared to the full student body.

“Quite frankly, the only segment of the population that we have cut down access for is sexual predators,” she said. “Those people who have been deemed not able to be rehabilitated and could be a threat to facility and staff.” ..Source.. by Derek Gilliam

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