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SOURCE Lauren's Kids
Key provisions legislated at the urging of child protection advocate Lauren Book
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 2, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of the Florida Legislature today passed bills 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; these measures were introduced at the urging of child protection advocate and sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book.
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."
"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 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 also 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. As part of this bill, Lauren Book strongly encouraged bill sponsors Senator Sobel and Rep. Harrell to add a measure mandating termination of parental rights for sexual predators.
"Having walked more than 6,000 miles across the state of Florida over the past five years," says Book, in reference to her annual "Walk in My Shoes" walk across Florida, "I have heard countless stories from victims and their families about predators who are convicted of molesting children, and go to jail and serve time only to come home to prey on those most vulnerable: their own children. In the few short hours since the bill has passed, we have had affected families reach out to thank us for our efforts. I know this is going to make a real difference for them."
The passage of these bills comes just weeks after Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a comprehensive, bipartisan legislative package into law as part of "Protecting Florida's Vulnerable" initiative on the first day of April, which is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. These newly signed Florida laws close loopholes in the justice system, mandate community supervision of sex offenders, and increase mandatory minimum sentences for sexually violent predators and those who offend against people with developmental disabilities.
Lauren's Kids is a non-profit organization that works to prevent abuse and help survivors heal. The organization was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured six years of abuse at the hands of her nanny. Lauren's organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, elementary school prevention curriculum, annual 1,500-mile awareness walk, legislative advocacy and speaking engagements. For more information, visit laurenskids.org.
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