Educators from across Florida are aiming to make schools safer in the wake of last week’s Parkland shooting. The Florida Department of Education hosted a roundtable Thursday to prevent future school massacres.
Working with local agencies, increasing gun control measures and fortifying school buildings were potential solutions discussed at Thursday’s education roundtable.
This, along with two other workshops, was organized by Gov. Rick Scott’s office in response to last week’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead.
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera says Florida must do better at keeping students safe.
“It is the responsibility of this government to protect our most precious resources – which is our children,” says Lopez-Cantera.
School counselors are pushing for greater resources and more time. They say there are too many students and not enough counselors, and the majority of their time is spent doing things like filing transcripts rather than actually helping students.
Nickie Zenn of the Network for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilites, or SEDNET, argues students are being set up to fail.
“As a whole I think we’re setting up our students to move thorugh our system without the necessary skills that they need,” says Zenn.
Officials also emphasize the need for greater cooperation between mental health organizations and schools. Counselors are overloaded, and are unable to properly transition students will mental health issues back into the system.
“Children in our school systems will go to court for a non-school site criminal offence,” says Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo. “The judge deems the minor unable to stand trial on the basis of a disability or mental condition. And often we are not notified of that. And a potential threat is returned to our school without notification or the guarantee of school-site or community services to address his/her needs.”
Some school officials note the need for students to recognize and report suspicious behavior. But last week’s shooter was reported to the FBI. Proper procedure wasn’t followed and the tip was never investigated.
And Steven Marante, Student Advisor to Broward County and a senior at Coral Springs High School says the burden is on the government, not the students, to keep schools safe.
"I’m hearing around the table that we need to do a better job at building community and being able to identify the kid - but we identified him," exlaims Marante. "And every single level failed from the county, to the state, to the federal. Our perfect little small town failed. And our country failed, too."
Educators are also highlighting the need for stricter gun regulation. Marante notes mental health reform is a necessary component, but so much more needs to be done. In a passionate remark met with applause at Thursday’s roundtable, he vowed Parkland students, and young people across Florida, will continue to fight for stricter gun regulation.
"There’s so much that needs to be said and done, but the guns are part of it," says Marante. "Kids are not going to let the news cycle move on. They’re planning marches. They’re petitioning their local elected officials. And the kids at Sandy Hook maybe weren’t able to speak up for themselves. But my friends are not going to be sidelined.”