TAMPA — Allowing students in the locker room without supervision could become illegal, if state Sen. Ronda Storms has her way.
Motivated by the alleged rape of a 13-year-old boy last year at Walker Middle School in Odessa, the Valrico Republican plans to introduce a bill this spring that would mandate supervision in locker rooms, restrooms and other school spaces across Florida.
"I want to fix it across the state, not just in Hillsborough County," Storms said. "You cannot put a bunch of kids in a locker room and expect they're going to be safe."
Four boys — 15-year-old Lee Louis Myers, Raymond Price-Murray, 14, Randall John Moye III, 14, and Diemante J. Roberts, 15 — were charged as adults with multiple counts of sexual battery in connection with the incidents, which allegedly took place in the locker room at Walker last spring.
Hillsborough school district officials said it had always required students to be supervised, and they made that policy more explicit following the incidents.
"If you need to lock down the locker room because you don't have enough manpower, then you do that," said assistant superintendent Lewis Brinson in June. "If you can't supervise it, you don't open it."
In addition to the potential for assaults, Storms said she worried that students might take cell phone pictures of each other in the locker room and transmit them.
"How do you stop that if you don't have an adult there to say, 'Hey, knock it off,' " she said.
Storms said she asked the Department of Education last spring to find out whether each of Florida's 67 school districts supervises its locker rooms. A memo was sent out to school districts, but she said she was dismayed by the state's slow response.
"They told me the answer is complex, and it will take time to compile," Storms said. "But it seems to me like it takes just one e-mail from the DOE, sent to each school district, asking for the answer. I'm not looking for anything fancy. I'm just looking for yes or a no."
Shannon Colavecchio contributed to this report. Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3400.