After the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission was quickly established within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2018. During this legislation session, members of the commission discussed a comprehensive approach to both identifying and addressing issues that were presented after the school shooting tragedy. According to the Public Safety Commission, they formed to specifically analyze information from the Parkland school shooting and other mass violence incidents in the state and address recommendations and system improvements.
After they released their initial 439-page report, the Florida Legislature used the Commission’s recommendations to craft Senate Bill 7030, which builds upon the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (MSDHSPSA), by enhancing communication and reporting of threats to student safety, expanding resources available for mental health services, expediting implementation of school hardening requirements and providing school districts with new options to maximize school safety.
The actions the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission has taken to improve school safety has made them a role model for K-12 schools and districts across the country.
Breaking Down Senate Bill 7030
The second Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report clearly outlines and summarizes the major school safety enhancements in Florida since the MSDSHS shooting. Let’s break it down.
Department of Education and Office of Safe Schools
The Office of Safe Schools (OSS) was created within the Florida Department of Education as the central repository for the best practices, training standards and compliance regarding school safety and security, according to the Commission’s report. The Office of Safe Schools will provide safe learning environments for students and educators, as well as include prevention, intervention, and emergency preparedness planning.
School Safety Specialists
Each K-12 school district is responsible for designating a district school safety specialist who will serve as the district’s primary point of public contact for school safety functions. They must assess security risks, oversee safety policies, and provide training for mental health and active shooter situations. The Commission’s report explains, “Senate Bill 7030 recognized the organizational flexibility school districts need in designating the appropriate district school safety specialist, so the legislature authorized school districts to designate a law enforcement officer employed by the sheriff’s office to fill the OSS position.”
School Hardening and Harm Mitigation
Under Senate Bill 7030 there is a large section outlining the importance of effective campus hardening. Knowing the vulnerabilities and making key decisions on how to best improve school security requires the following, according to the Commission's Report:
- Florida Safety School Assessment Tool (FSSAT): Senate Bill 7030 requires that the FSSAT be the primary physical site security assessment tool used by Florida schools.
- Hardening: In the Commission’s initial report there were several tiered options for school hardening and harm mitigation. Senate Bill 7030 requires that OSS convene a School Hardening and Harm Mitigation Workgroup with subject matter expertise on school campus hardening best practices.
- Active Assailant Response: Each district school board and charter school governing board must adopt an active assailant response plan as well as perform active assailant drills.
Safe School Officers
Every school district must assign a safe school officer in every public school. There were enhanced options which included assigning a police officer or deputy sheriff, a school guardian, or a school security guard who has received guardian training. Senate Bill 7030 also requires district school boards to collaborate with charter school governing boards to make sure charter schools also have access to a safe school officer.
The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was also updated in Senate Bill 7030. Originally it allowed non-law enforcement officers to fulfill the role of a safe school officer, but legislation removes the prohibition on an individual who exclusively performs classroom duties as a classroom teacher from participating in the Guardian Program.
A centralized, integrated data repository and data analytics resource was recently rolled out in August of 2019. The Florida School Safety Database was created to enhance security in K-12 schools and districts across the state by compiling student information in one place, which will primarily be used by law enforcement, counselors, and other school staff who are part of a threat assessment team.
The “Fortify Florida” app, or “FortifyFL”, allows students and others to anonymously report unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent, or criminal activities, or the threat of these activities, to law enforcement agencies and school officials all from a mobile device. Anonymous tip texting software is being widely used across K-12 school districts in the United States with the same intentions as FortifyFL. Allowing students to report suspicious behaviors knowing it will be anonymous means it’ll be more likely for students to come forward with sensitive information.
Senate Bill 7026 required under the direction of the district school safety specialist that each school district should designate a threat assessment team. According to the Commission’s second report, “The concept of threat assessments has emerged as a way to identify and manage all threats of targeted violence, not just those in schools. On February 13, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to develop a statewide strategy for identifying and managing threats of targeted violence. Florida will be the first state in the nation to take such a comprehensive approach to this problem.”
Since the school shooting in Parkland there has been a huge focus on improving mental health for students as well as training educators to spot signs and symptoms through youth mental health aid. Senate Bill 7030 requires school districts to develop a multi-tiered system of support, which will deliver evidence-based mental health care. According to the Commission’s report, the plans must include the following:
- The direct employment of certified school counselors or other mental health professionals;
- Strategies to increase the amount of time that school-based student services personnel spend providing direct services to students;
- Contracts with local community behavioral health providers or providers of Community Action Team services to provide a behavioral health staff presence and services at district schools;
- Policies and procedures that allow for students to receive services within 15 days of referral;
- Strategies or programs to reduce the likelihood of at-risk students developing social, emotional or behavioral health problems; and
- Strategies to improve the provision of early intervention services, and to assist students in dealing with trauma and violence.
School Safety Funding
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s report outlines the allocation of several school safety funding initiatives to support mental health, training for sheriff’s offices and districts, school hardening, enhanced campus security, and more. School districts in Florida have used these grants and funding opportunities to implement effective school safety procedures and technologies to support Senate Bill 7030.
Mobile panic button applications are just one of many school safety technologies that are being considered by K-12 schools. With the touch of a button teachers and school administrators can report an active assailant situation simultaneously informing school professionals, first responders, and 9-1-1. A key component of panic button technology is the ability for teachers to call a lockdown from anywhere on school campus, whether they’re in their classroom, the school hallways, or gymnasium.
E911 and Radio Systems
In the Commission’s initial report, they noted issues related to 911 and communications systems, which were a significant factor in the delayed response times to the Parkland tragedy. In response to the recommendations House Bill 441 was passed during the 2019 Legislative session and was approved by the Florida Governor. The bill “requires the Florida Department of Management Services to develop a plan by February 1, 2020, to upgrade 911 public safety answering points (PSAP) within the state to allow the transfer of an emergency call from one local, multijurisdictional or regional E911 system to another local, multijurisdictional or regional E911 system in the state.”
Why Interoperability Is Key for School Safety Initiatives
Interoperability between schools and law enforcement is extremely important, especially after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When there is an active assailant on school grounds, seconds count. Communicating with school staff, 9-1-1, and first responders at once can allow for improved response times, which is critical in the event of an emergency. The Commission's report states, "The timeliest way to communicate an on-campus emergency is direct reporting from a school staff member to everyone on campus and the 9-1-1 center simultaneously." Find out how you can easily share radio, voice, video, and data for cross-agency collaboration for impeccable interoperability, with a panic button app.
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