The Senate Education Commission will consider legislation next week based on new recommendations submitted by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission late last year.
The commission’s November report included several new directives, including making sure agencies created specific policies for notifying victims’ families after mass casualty events, reducing the number of active shooter drills and identifying more money for mental health screenings and treatment.
The Education Committee’s proposed legislation (SB 7040) would authorize a local sheriff to provide training to staff in school districts or charter schools wanting to carry firearms. Training must include night and low-light shooting conditions, psychological exams and drugs tests.
The bill adds penalties for falsely reporting a school attack and more training for school safety specialists. It requires the Office for Safe Schools to oversee and coordinate school safety incident reporting and report noncompliance of districts and charters to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.
The legislation also requires the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute to convene a workgroup to draft recommendations to improve the state’s mental health system.
The MSD Public Safety Commission and prior recommendations lawmakers have approved have been a target of frequent criticism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has complained about the lack of diversity on the commission and lamented it does not include students, current educators or designated advocates for students with disabilities or voting members who are people of color. That appears to be something the bill tries to address. Starting in June, the commission would include three additional members actively serving as district school superintendents, school principals or classroom teachers. Future appointments must consider achieving an equal balance of people in a school district, law enforcement, and health care professions and reflect cultural diversity.
SPLC is also suing the commission, its chair and the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for violating open meeting laws on behalf of March for Our Lives Florida, the Florida Student Power Network, Dream Defenders and other students.