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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 10/15/19-Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, chairs the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meeting, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Lauren Book bill would mandate response plan for missing special needs students

Rep. Evan Jenne has also filed a version of the bill in the House.

Sen. Lauren Book has joined Rep. Evan Jenne in once again introducing legislation to require schools set up a response plan in the event a student with autism or other intellectual disability goes missing.

The pair filed a similar bills last Session, though they both died in committee. Jenne refiled a version for the 2020 Session (HB 79) in August.

Book, a Plantation Democrat, put forward her version of the bill (SB 650) on Thursday. It requires each public school to create a Staff Assistance for Emergencies (SAFE) Team and a plan to respond if a student with disability “leaves the supervision of school staff or leaves school grounds unsupervised or unnoticed.”

The team will be made up of the school’s principal, assistant principal, and at least five other members appointed by the principal.

The SAFE Plan must include several items including a grid of “all bodies of water, intersections, train tracks and stations, parks, playgrounds, and other features that may present a greater risk for students with disabilities.”

The plan would also establish a process for school administrators, school resource officers, local law enforcement and the missing student’s parent to be notified if a student goes missing. Contact information for the SAFE Team must also be made available.

For students prone to escaping supervision, the SAFE Team must establish a “student-specific elopement quick reference guide.” That guide will include the student’s photograph, identifying information and level of communication, among several other items aimed at helping track down that particular student.

School personnel must be trained to familiarize them with a plan. That protocol will be reviewed and updated annually and provided to the school board.

The State Board of Education may also adopt rules to help implement the legislation.

Should it be successful, the legislation from Book and Jenne would take effect on July 1, 2020.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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