9 Investigates loophole where sex offenders could live near school

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

WFTV’s Myrt Price investigated a loop hole in a law that could allow a sex offender to live right next door to a school.

Before a school is ever built administrators consider many factors but there’s one thing they don’t look for.

“We don’t need to do any checks for sex offenders,” Faz Ali, with Orange County Public Schools, said.

Typically there are restrictions in place that keep sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

Law enforcement comes out and measures that distance and if anyone breaks the rules that person would have to move, but for areas where officials plan to build a school, there are no restrictions for sex offenders.

That means they can live anywhere they want to even if their house is right across the street from the school.

“It’s a legislative loophole,” WFTV’s legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said.

Because of that loophole sex offenders are grandfathered in the neighborhoods of future schools all over the state and they can’t be forced to move or be bought out.

“I just don’t believe any attempt to regulate that would be found to be constitutional,” Sheaffer said.

OCPS officials said most school sites they buy are in the middle of nowhere.

Price checked a dozen proposed school OCPS sites and although he found a few within 1,500 feet, he didn't find any that were within 1,000 feet.

Sheaffer said law enforcement has ways to keep tabs on sex offenders by making them register and placing their pictures on online sex offender registries.

He believes if a sex offender winds up within a 1,000 feet of a school, the offender would definitely be on law enforcement's radar.

"Law enforcement is going to pay particular attention to them and they will not be able to hide in plain sight," he said.

Experts said if a sex offender living near a school re-offended lawmakers would try to close the loophole but that could be a tough legal challenge