Will Florida Schools Protect Our Kids?
The report of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is in. It’s been reported to the legislature and the recommendations have been made. The commission’s conclusion, as voiced by its Chairman Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, is that the state’s school districts have no sense of urgency in making our schools safer from the possibility of an active shooter attack.
Gualtieri says the districts are not moving fast enough and are playing games with the school safety act the legislature passed last year. He reports that safety alternatives presented in the law to our schools are not being done well at all. Training for teachers in active shooter response is lacking, troubled students are not being properly assessed, emergency readiness reports are slow to be submitted and districts are dragging their feet in training and arming school staff to better protect the innocent students and staff at Florida schools.
Only two districts have chosen to arm allowed staff outside of what we in Brevard are calling Security Specialists who are armed and hired as security only positions. What the law has created for Florida schools has become the exact same solution to that of Broward Schools on that fateful day in Parkland. MSD High School had one armed person, a deputy, to respond immediately to the active shooter situation. That was and still is woefully inadequate.
Gualtieri asserts that widespread use of the guardian program as authorized by the law would mitigate deputy shortages being faced by most sheriffs’ offices around the state. He also noted some Sheriff’s Departments are refusing to train school personnel as allowed, but apparently not mandated by the law. He wants the legislature to mandate that training should a school board adopt the guardian plan. That makes sense and is just one example of the flawed thinking of the legislature as they quickly reacted to have something in place by the end of the last legislative session.
Today the legislature has time to properly consider how it tweaks this law and the teeth it can put in place to require appropriate action by school boards and sheriffs alike. I hope they do. If not, we have given lip service to this horrible tragedy and left our kids and the fine friends and neighbors working in our schools at risk. That, too, is completely unacceptable.