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Grand Jury Says 'Numerous' School Districts Not Complying With Safety Laws

A sign bearing the names of the 17 people killed during the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (3/24/2018)
Lydell Rawls

A statewide Grand Jury investigating school safety says “numerous” districts aren’t complying with school security laws. The report comes weeks before the start of a new school year.

The Grand Jury’s reportdoesn’t list which districts are out of compliance with the school safety laws, nor does it specify what the districts aren’t doing. But it does say there has been conflict between districts and law enforcement agencies over who is responsible for carrying out the rules outlined in the two school safety laws approved following the 2018 Valentine’s Day Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The report notes districts are concerned about the cost to implement the rules, a shortage of qualified employees to carry out some of the requirements and unspecified administrative hurdles, but the grand jury says those arguments are “unpersuasive”.

Florida lawmakers allocated $289 million in funding for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in the 2019-2020 budget, but Wakulla County Superintendent Bobbie Pierce says the funds does not meet their need.

“All of the recent mental health [requirements] and with the safety and security [requirements] there has been a lot of increase funding [pressure] there, says Pierce. "But in many case it has not been enough to meet the requirements and the need and so we’ve had to go into our budget to find those dollars.”

Altogether, Florida schools will receive an additional $242 per student over last year.

In the wake of the shooting, Florida lawmakers called on districts to have designated personnel to carry guns at every school. Districts must also required to track kids with mental health or behavioral disorders and get them services and report suspicious activity and incidents of crime. Districts are also supposed to have threat assessment and active shooter training.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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