Monday, February 25, 2019

Florida Supreme Court grants DeSantis' request for statewide grand jury on school safety

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 3:11 PM

The Florida Supreme Court's seven justices unanimously allowed Gov. Ron DeSantis' request to "promptly impanel" a statewide grand jury for one year to look into school safety issues.

In the order released Monday, the justices say DeSantis has shown that "good and sufficient reason exists and that it is in the public interest to impanel a statewide grand jury" to further investigate the issue.

According to a news release from the DeSantis' administration, the grand jury will look into:
  • Whether refusal or failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws, such as those imposed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, result in unnecessary and avoidable risk to students.
  • Whether public entities or school officials committed fraud by accepting state funds meant for school safety measures while knowingly failing to act.
  • Whether school officials violated state law by systematically underreporting incidents of crime activity to the Florida Department of Education. 
Individuals to potentially be included as grand jury members will "be drawn from the certified jury lists submitted by the chief judges of the Eleventh, Fifteenth and Seventeenth Judicial Circuits," which covers Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to the order.

The order states Jack Tuter Jr., chief judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit, "is designated as presiding judge over the statewide grand jury."

DeSantis originally petitioned the court on Feb. 13. In his petition, he noted the "mass murder" at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February that left 17 dead, which "drew attention to systemic failures by school officials and other state actors to ensure student safety."

DeSantis has said his intention is to take a deeper dive than what was granted to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was tasked with getting to the root of the causes behind the Parkland shooting and to make recommendations for improving school safety measures at districts throughout Florida.

"I am pleased with the Supreme Court's decision to impanel a statewide grand jury to review school safety measures throughout our state," DeSantis says in the news release. "As I have said before, the safety of our children is paramount. This grand jury will work to investigate practices, identify failures and recommend solutions to keep students, teachers and staff safe in our schools."

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