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Putting the Jessica Lunsford Act Into Action

Parents must report to the school's office and receive a visitor's pass, but everyone else, cable men, the phone repair man, volunteers and now school referees are subject to fingerprinting and background checks.

Each year the Florida Department of Law Enforcement performs 750,000 background checks. That number is expected to grow with the implementation of the Jessica Lunsford Act.

Tom Berlinger of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says, "It requires that school districts take fingerprints and submit to FDLE along with fee, run through both FDLE and FBI database."

The Leon County School District supports the intent of the law to protect children. After all, it submitted more than 2,000 sets of fingerprints last year, but it’s turning out to be a logistics nightmare.

Jom Coteau with Leon County Schools says, "As usual, [the] Legislature mandates and we figure out how to pay for it. We budgeted $75,000 to cover the checks, and that won't be enough next year."

That's because everyone down to the high school referee is required by state law to undergo a background check. They run about $61 a piece, yet districts are already working together to cut costs.

Bill Montford, Superintendent of Leon County Schools, says, "Keep one huge database on file for area school districts to share every school system."

But that raises another question: who will set the standards of this statewide clearinghouse? School leaders raise the question, what passes in one district may not pass in another.

The background checks are kept on file for three years and performed every five years. Everyone who passes the background check is issued an identification card to show once they enter school grounds.

Within the last week officials met to discuss referees. The background check is not a requirement of the Florida High School Athletic Association. It is a state law, so if you want to officiate for the upcoming school year, then you must be fingerprinted.


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