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An Incomplete Picture Of Sexual Assault In Florida Schools

Pat Sullivan AP
Miami Herald
An evidence bag from a sexual assault case is pictured in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston.

There has been a lot of attention on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses in recent years. There was an alleged case of rape on the University of Miami two years ago that ended with the firing of a professor and a lawsuit from an accused student. There was the Stanford Rape Case that ended with the perpetrator getting a light sentence that sparked national fury over the judge's reasoning.

Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN
Dr Katherine Westaway used to run an event called "Canes Consent" every semester at the University of Miami. It was an effort to bring more attention to sexual assault on campus. She was let go by the university.

President Obama pushed for reforms so university administrators take the issue more seriously, including withdrawal of federal funds. The Department of Education had more than 250 open investigations into the way administrators handled different cases around the country.

With all this attention on institutions of higher education, one huge question remains - what about high schools and even middle schools? What are education officials on those levels doing to prevent assaults and protect students?

A recent Associated Press investigation revealed that secondary schools don't have to report or track these sorts of crimes. So how does Florida fare?

Associated Press investigators looked at cases of sex assault and rape over a four-year period and they found over 17,000 reports nationwide. Schools in the Sunshine State had 165 cases reported in that time period. Those were cases of sexual battery incidents such as threats of rape, fondling, indecent liberties, or sodomy. The report did say the actual number of attacks at individual schools or districts were not clear when there were fewer than 10 a year. 

Credit Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Clockwise, from top left: Kenoldo Alexis, Derek Bynum, Steven Joseph and David Lombard are accused of raping a mentally handicapped student at North Miami Senior High School.

The Florida Department of Education has an extensive list of all school districts and schools with the number of crimes and types of crimes reported, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and other sex offenses.

Do you know who to contact in your district if you suspect your child may have been a victim of any of these crimes? In most cases you'll find the category of sexual harassment and assault under bullying.  Here is contact information for South Florida public schools.

For the Palm Beach County School District, contact Kim Mazauskas (561) 982-0922 Kim.mazauskas@palmbeachschools.org or Rick Lewis (561) 982-0920 Rick.lewis@palmbeachschools.org

In Broward County School District, can reach out to Student Support Services at (754) 321-2568, or the Emergency/Silence Hurts Tipline at (754) 321- 0911.

In Miami-Dade County Schools, reach out to Martha Harris mharris1@dadeschools.net or Frank Zenere fzenere@dadeschools.net (305) 995-7319.

If you're in Monroe County Schools, contact the district, at (305) 293-1400 ext. 53392

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.
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