FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 – 2737 firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is a statement from the ACLU of Florida on the case of Kaitlyn Hunt, a Sebastian, Florida high school student who faces felony charges for having a relationship with a female schoolmate.
The ACLU of Florida condemns the prosecution of 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt. The facts as we understand them suggest that the state is prosecuting Kaitlyn for engaging in behavior that is both fairly innocuous and extremely common. Such behavior occurs every day in tens of thousands of high schools across the country, yet those other students are not facing felony convictions (and, in Florida, the lifetime consequences of a felony conviction) and potential lifelong branding as sex offenders. This is a life sentence for behavior by teenagers that is all too common, whether they are male or female, gay or straight. High-school relationships may be fleeting, but felony convictions are not.
While effective laws are certainly needed to protect Florida’s children from sexual predators, one cannot seriously maintain that Kaitlyn’s behavior was predatory. Application of this law to Kaitlyn’s conduct is another example of the troubling trend in Florida and across the country of criminalizing teenagers. The school-to-prison pipeline is filled with students whose behavior is better addressed by school officials and parents, not by a criminal justice system that turns ordinary teenagers into convicted felons who are prevented from meaningfully contributing to society because of their unjust convictions. Even if Kaitlyn is able to avoid sex-offender registration, a felony conviction will harm her for the rest of her life, catastrophically damaging her employment prospects and even her right to participate in her community as a citizen and vote.
Her promising future could be ruined merely because she engaged in behavior that countless other students in every school operating under the state attorney’s jurisdiction also engage in. This prosecution does nothing to protect Florida’s young people but instead causes a great deal of harm.
Note: The ACLU of Florida is not providing legal assistance in this case. For more information about the ongoing legal case, contact the law office of A. Julia Graves.
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