MIAMI - State records show more than 100 registered sex offenders attend or work at colleges, universities, or vocational schools in South Florida.
While nearly every college, university, and vocational school in South Florida has registered sex offenders enrolled or employed, Local 10 found most students had no idea who is sitting next to them and teaching them in the classroom because the state doesn't make the information easily accessible.
Federal law requires registered sex offenders and predators to tell the state if they are students or employees on a college campus.
You can search the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sex offenders website by where registered sex offenders live -- but there is no way to search who is at a specific institution.
It took weeks for Local 10 to obtain the information.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) first advised to get the information locally. At the local level, one department told us to get the info from FDLE.
Another department simply said "We are working on getting this information for you."
Some of the information that came back was very generic, saying there were eight students locally -- but who are they?
FDLE later provided Local 10 with the information.
State records show there are five registered sex offenders at Florida International University's main campus.
"I had no idea," said FIU student Krystal Lopez.
"You get into group projects with people, you meet up with people, you should know that stuff," added Regina Acquaviva.
Florida Keys Community College, Miami-Dade College, St. Thomas University, Nova Southeastern, Broward College, Florida Atlantic University, and Palm Beach Community College all have offenders on campus, according to state records.
Among them is 58-year-old Robert Kaplan, who is a registered sex offender and a teacher at City College.
Students say Kaplan teaches classes, including microbiology, at the Dadeland Campus in Miami.
"I am extremely shocked about this. This was not brought up, not even during orientation," said one student.
State records also show two are at the University of Florida in Gainesville; 10 are at the University of Central Florida in Orlando; and, eight are at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Both the Coral Gables Police Department and the state confirmed no registered offenders or predators are at the University of Miami main campus.
Local 10 only requested information regarding the above schools. FDLE advises the information can change daily as the department isn't always notified when an offender leaves a school.
According to the University of Florida Police Department: "The federal Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act requires colleges and universities to issue a statement advising the campus community where state law enforcement agency information concerning registered sex offenders/predators may be obtained. The act also requires registered sex offenders/predators to provide to appropriate state officials notice of each institution of higher education in that state at which the offender/predator is employed, carries on a vocation, or is a student.
In accordance with Florida State Statute 775.21 ("The Florida Sexual Predators Act") and Florida Statute 943.0435, convicted sex offenders in Florida must register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) within 48 hours of establishing permanent or temporary residence. The FDLE makes information concerning the presence of registered sexual offenders/predators available to local law enforcement officials and the public. It is then the responsibility of the county sheriff or the municipal police chief to make required notification to all community members of the presence of predators (only) in a manner deemed appropriate by the sheriff or police chief. It is the responsibility of the county sheriff to notify the university if an offender or predator is enrolled, employed, or carrying on a vocation at the university. The UFPD is required to inform members of the campus community where to obtain information about such offenders/predators."
No students on the campuses Local 10 visited said they knew there were registered sex offenders among them, or that this information existed.
Local 10 has contacted a Florida state senator and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence about its investigation. Both say change is needed so the information is more accessible to students.
Watch Local 10 News at 11 p.m. Monday to see what they had to say.
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