Lunsford Act keeps tabs on school contractors

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

MIAMI – A new state law designed to protect students from sexual
predators includes a little-noticed section requiring fingerprint checks
for all vendors and contractors who work at public schools while students
are present – a measure that could affect thousands of construction
workers, sports referees and maybe even delivery drivers.

The law’s author said he does not remember writing or even discussing
such a rule when the 82-page Jessica Lunsford Act was drafted this
spring. The law takes effect Sept. 1.

District leaders said it could have a dramatic impact on construction and
contracting at 400 schools undergoing renovation this year in Miami-Dade
and Broward.

“I don’t think anyone had really thought about it to any great degree,”
said Miami-Dade Associate Superintendent Freddie Woodson. “Depending on
how deep this thing goes, the guy who services the vending machines will
have to be checked.”

The Broward officials responsible for complying with the new law were
unavailable, but a district spokesman said they were evaluating the
implications.

“We fully intend to comply with the law,” spokesman Keith Bromery said.

Florida has long required all public school employees to submit to
detailed background checks, but vendors and contractors who come onto
school grounds have generally been exempt.

The new law primarily intensifies sentences and monitoring for sexual
predators. It is named for the 9-year-old Homosassa girl who was
kidnapped, raped and murdered this year, allegedly by a convicted sex
offender.

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