Edison College considers outright ban on sex offenders as students

Edison College considers outright ban on sex offenders as students


With just four credit hours left before he earned his associate degree, an Edison State College student and registered sex offender dropped out of class last week.

For nearly 20 years, the Charlotte County man has tried to shake the stigma surrounding his 1995 conviction for sexual battery and lewd and lascivious behavior around someone under 16. But now that Edison State College trustees are considering a blanket ban on students with a sex offender status, he decided to withdraw.

“I can’t get a job, and now I can’t get a degree to get a new job,” he said.

Edison State College trustees will consider changes to its open admissions policy at an upcoming meeting, including a ban on sex offenders and sex predators. They will also consider banning applicants with other felony convictions listed under a Florida statute barring applicants for employment at schools if they have committed arson, robbery, rape, burglary, murder, kidnapping, carjacking or a slew of other crimes.

College officials said they’re considering the rules with student safety in mind, especially given that the college teaches high school students through dual-enrollment programs.

“This is a blanket rule,” said spokeswoman Teresa Morgenstern. “Obviously if a student is denied admission they can go through the appeals process.”

The man who dropped out this week asked not to be named, though his information is readily available on a new database launched in Florida this week. It was not immediately clear whether students already attending class would have been kicked out with the new rules.

And while all sex offenders’ and sexual predators’ names and addresses have been compiled online in the past, a new database in Florida now allows citizens to search for people with those convictions who work for or attend public and private institutions of higher education in the state.

The database happened to be launched the same week an Edison committee looked over language for its proposed rule.

“The bottom line for us is we want to make sure we provide a safe environment for students,” Morgenstern said. “We do have minors taking classes for us.”

Colleges and universities have the statutory option of denying admission to students with criminal backgrounds if it is in the best interest of the college, but not all opt for such strict rules.

At Florida Gulf Coast University for example, students with sex offender status have to go through a more rigourous screening process before gaining admittance.

Spokeswoman Susan Evans said since FGCU opened in 1997, seven students with sex-offender status have attended class. At least five have been denied enrollment in the same time period either because of the egregious nature of their crimes or how recently they were committed. Two are currently enrolled, even though the new FDLE database shows a third. Evans said the third is not taking classes this semester.

“We’ve never had an issue with any of them,” Evans said of students with the sex-offender status. “We do a very rigorous review on the front end to decide whether those people would make a good addition.”

University employees undergo a similar procedure for hiring, Evans said.

Ave Maria University does not allow students with sex offender status to attend class or work at the university, a spokeswoman there said. The school does consider other felony conviction on a case-by-case basis.

And Hodges University trustees voted about five years ago not to allow students with sex offender status to enroll.

“We had some student issues honestly and we saw a common denominator and that was it,”said Rita Lampus, vice president of enrollment management.

Sen. Elenaor Sobel, D-Hollywood, Fla., backed legislation last session to secure funding for the database. The information about where sex offenders work was already being collected, but was not readily searchable for higher education institutions where students might want to access it.

“The information was out there but the linkage to the community wasn’t there,” Sobel said, “and this is the logical step to help students be more aware of who’s on the campus with them.”

The database can be viewed on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website: http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/univSearchNav.do?link=standard

© 2013 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 3

BonitaTango writes:

My understanding is that a teen can be labelled a "Sex Offender" if caught sunbathing in the nude. I applaud FGCU for its effort in a rigorous review. AMU is in another universe it seems. Perhaps the new Pope will remind them of the concept of absolution.

sharks2009 writes:

What I don't understand is why the Edison student who was already enrolled left. No decisions had been made with regards to this. More than likely he would have completed his degree prior to any changes made to the open admissions policy.

vonthurn#276336 writes:

I support the sex offenders laws but..If a person has done his time, he needs to rehabilitate and work. We as a society throw major barricades in the path of anyone who is trying to repair his life and go straight. You cannot get a job anywhere because you must report that you have been arrested and no on will hire you because you were a felon and thus, you are no longer allowed to work. We close all doors to ex cons. So in order to eat, people must go back to jail.
A lot of kids make errors in judgement. We need to have a way for them to rehabilitate and become good members of society. Denying them an education is total ignorance. They have already been judged and served their time. You are not judge and jury. That part is over. You simply need something to hate and discriminate against. Their crime is done. Let them rehabilitate.
Should a 19 year old boy be marked for life for consensual sex with his 17 year old girlfriend. Should a burglar who went through an acquaintances open door and drank a bottle of booze standing on the counter (that is a felony) be forbidden work, and denied an education because of a s----- childish act? When the punishment is over it is done.
Sex offenders are registered. That is appropriate. But some other states feel that if you have served your time and been clean for 15 years, you can have your name removed from the list.
This denial of an education, and or work is double jeopardy. I really feel bad for the man who was forced to drop out when he was trying to straighten out his life.
Yes, I believe if you can't do the time , don't do the crime. But when the punishment is over, it is over.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.