Public safety commission says Florida making progress on school safety

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 4:17 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPS NEWS/WCJB) - Florida schools are significantly safer today according to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission established in the aftermath of the parkland shooting, where since 17 lives were lost.

The commission met Wednesday and was told most districts, but not all, have made great strides.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officers and 1,300 armed guardians are assigned to 3,700 Florida public schools.

A total of 44 districts have utilized armed school staff through the guardian program.

“Some of the districts that said they don’t have a guardian program currently are actively pursuing a program,” said Tim Hay, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools.

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According to a survey presented at the meeting, eight districts reported their guardians don’t have access to a law enforcement radio, which raised concerns among commissioners like Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

“If you have a guardian that’s got somebody at gunpoint and they can’t communicate with the responding cops, it has potential adverse consequences and also can hinder the most effective response,” said Gualtieri.

Twenty schools districts also said staff can’t receive communications of threats on campus and 24 lack the ability for all staff to communicate threats.

That will that change by the start of the next school year, thanks to legislation mandating mobile panic alert systems in all schools passed last year.

“Systems will ensure real-time coordination among first responders and transmit 911 calls and mobile activations,” said Hay.

Despite some of the concerns raised commissioners agreed, the state has made significant strides to improve school safety since the Parkland shooting.

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“Despite COVID and despite everything else that they’re dealing with and going through this past year, I’m seeing progress,” said Ryan Petty, commissioner and father of Parkland Victim Alania Petty.

Last year’s comprehensive school safety package failed to pass.

Commissioners expect a new package in the upcoming session, but nothing has been filed yet.

None of the districts listed as not fully compliant were named to avoid making them potential targets.

The commission is also awaiting the release of a statewide grad jury report looking into the Parkland shooting.

It’s expected to be published sometime this year.

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