Monday, March 26, 2018

Rick Scott sends letter to Florida schools detailing safety upgrades after Parkland shooting

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 12:54 PM

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Over the weekend, Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to school superintendents across the state, detailing what’s to come next in safety upgrades for Florida school districts.

The letter lays out a timeline for state and local officials to make the security changes, which come in the wake of the fatal shooting of 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14.

“Since then, our entire state has come together to find ways to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again, including the immediate need to increase safety at each school in Florida,” Scott writes. “I am certain that you will agree that there is nothing more important than the safety of our children.”

Also born of the Parkland tragedy was the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which Scott points to in the letter as a major development in furthering school safety.

“There is nothing more important than making our schools safer, and we have record amounts of funding to accomplish this goal,” Scott writes. “Today, I wanted to inform you of the progress we have made in implementing this important law, as well as some of the highlights of the new law, and the deadlines each school district must meet.”

Per Scott's letter, some of the highlights of the new law, and the deadlines each school district must meet:
— By May 1, 2018, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) will hire a Director for their newly created Office of Safe Schools

— Upon SB7026 becoming law, DOE immediately began working to implement active shooter training so each teacher, student, faculty member and school safety officer knows what to do during a crisis. This training must be done at least every semester.

— By July 1, 2018, superintendents must designate a district School Safety Specialist.

— By August 1, 2018, each school district must complete a security risk assessment for each public school campus. The assessment must be conducted in consultation with local law enforcement. Although the $99 million in funding for school hardening will be distributed as quickly as possible, school districts should use existing funding to make any critical safety improvements immediately.

— Before the start of the 2018-2019 school year, DOE will begin to identify a security consulting firm for the independent, third-party review of the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool, as required by the new law.

— By September 1, 2018, each school should establish a threat assessment team with expertise in mental health counseling, academic instruction, law enforcement and school administration that will meet monthly to review any potential threats to students and staff at the school.

— By July 1, 2018, I expect each school board, in coordination with their County Sheriff to determine how many people they intend to train using the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. This program is 100 percent voluntary. Once participation decisions have been made, DOE will work with my office and the Legislature to redirect any unused funding from this program to hire additional school officers.

— In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, Florida schools were provided $97.5 million to hire additional school safety officers. My expectation is that there is at least one school safety officer at each school at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. It is my understanding that according to the most recent data before the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, approximately 1,500 law enforcement officers were working in our schools.

— Before the start of the 2018-2019 school year, DOE will establish a youth mental awareness and assistance training program to train school personnel to better identify signs of mental illness in students and how to seek the proper treatment.

— In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, Florida schools were provided $69 million to establish or expand school-based mental health care. Our expectation is that each student in Florida has access to a mental health professional at school by the 2018-2019 school year. Plans must be submitted to DOE by August 1, 2018. 

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