Do Florida theme parks screen for sex offenders?

Posted at 12:26 PM, Apr 26, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla-- In February a registered sex offender was arrested after deputies say he exposed himself to a young girl at SeaWorld's Aquatica which raises the question: do theme parks screen for offenders?

52-year-old Gerald Youmans was convicted in 2004 of exposing himself to a child in Palm Beach. He was designated a sexual predator.

In February, Youmans was again accused of exposing himself to a child. This time at Aquatica. Sheriff's office documents reveal he had an annual pass to the park. According to court papers, Youmans has since pleaded not guilty and faces trial in June.

SeaWorld, along with Universal and Disney, all decline to share specifics of their policies regarding the admittance of sex offenders or whether they screen for them.

Criminal defense attorney Richard Hornsby has represented clients on the sex offender registry and says some of those clients believe Disney denies or revokes their admittance if they discover someone is on this list. "I've had people that also happen to have had season passes or got their passes on line and then after they bought them gotten a letter saying their passes are revoked or being canceled, they're not allowed to use it."

It's unclear exactly how Disney may search for or flag sex offenders, but one readily available identifier is their driver's license which carries their designation.

Hornsby says as long as someone convicted of a sex offense is no longer on probation there is no state law banning them from theme parks. But, he says the theme parks have every right to ban sex offenders. "Any private business is allowed to trespass a person as long as the reason they're trespassing them is not some constitutionally-protected status such as gender, race or age."

The Florida Action Committee, a group that advocates for sex offenders, wants companies to look at each individual. It stresses that there are different degrees of sex offenses and not all are against children.

"It's the overwhelming, one size fits all policy that individuals or companies ill-informed to make an informed decision about who should be there and who shouldn't be there is very bizarre to me," said Gail Colletta with the Florida Action Committee. " Not every individual required to register creates a danger to public safety."

While there may be no way to know for sure is someone on the sex offender registry has been admitted to one of the theme parks, law enforcement says good advice for parents may be to act as the first line of defense by keeping their kids close to keep them safe.