Sunday, Feb. 14 marks three years since a shooter attacked Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more. Now, legislators are looking to ensure parents are made aware of any threats to a Florida campus.
Democratic Rep. Dan Daley has filed that legislation in the House (HB 951). Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, will put forward the Senate version, though has not yet formally filed his bill. Stand With Parkland, a safety advocacy organization launched by families who lost loved ones in the 2018 shooting, is also supporting the measure.
“It’s our collective responsibility to make the world a safer place for our children, and this legislation would put protocols in place that would potentially save countless lives,” Daley said.
“As a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, nothing is more important to me than taking action to ensure that a tragedy like what our community experienced never happens again.”
The bill is partly in response to the Parkland shooter exhibiting several warning signs in the years prior to carrying out the 2018 attack.
Some of those red flags included calls to the shooter’s home, which wouldn’t be covered under this new legislation. But others involved violent acts on campus, ultimately leading to Nikolas Cruz being expelled from Stoneman Douglas. He later returned to open fire on the school.
The shooter also made threats on social media, including a comment stating he would “be a professional school shooter.” Daley’s bill would set up a hotline for parents to report such threats. That hotline would also allow school personnel to report if higher-ups do not respond to those threats properly.
That “proper” response would include notifying parents of the threat and giving safety recommendations.
“Each school principal must report a threat or incident that affects the safety of a school; affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student or school personnel; or involves a violent criminal act on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event within 24 hours after the discovery of the threat or incident, including what actions were taken in response to the threat or incident and what actions a parent may take if he or she has continued concerns regarding the threat or incident,” the measure reads.
That report must be given to the Superintendent, the state’s Office of Safe Schools, all school personnel at the campus and all parents of students at that school.
“While a court recently decided the Broward County School District had no duty to warn parents of the threats posed by the Parkland shooter, we believe that decision to be a reckless precedent and took action by filing ‘The Parents Need to Know’ Act which will require schools to transparently communicate with parents and staff regarding the safety of their children, in addition to creating a hotline and online reporting system,” Daley said.
“Since the tragedy at MSD, Stand with Parkland – The National Association of Families for Safe Schools founded by the victim’s families has worked to transform their pain into action, helping to prevent other school shootings and save the lives of others. ‘The Parents Need to Know Act’ is a work of dedication by these families.”
Added Sen. Jones: “This legislation will empower communities across the state with information that will ultimately make our students and schools safer, before more innocent lives are lost.”
The types of dangers which must be reported include, but are not limited to, murder threats, sexual assault allegations, weapon possession, trespassing or other violent incidents that required medical attention.
“I was told my children’s school was safe, until it became the crime scene for the worst mass shooting at a U.S. high school,” said April Schentrup of Stand with Parkland. Schentrup lost her daughter, Carmen, in the 2018 attack.
“It turned out that serious safety concerns were not reported to all parents, students, and school staff when they occurred. Enacting the ‘Parents Need to Know’ Act may be too late for my daughter, Carmen, and the 16 other victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but it is not too late to keep other staff and students safe in Florida’s schools.”
Stand with Parkland President Tony Montalto is also in favor of the legislation proposed by Jones and Daley. Tony’s daughter, Gina, was killed in the 2018 shooting.
“How can you keep your kids safe if you don’t know about the threats they face?” Montalto asked. “When ‘Parents Need to Know’ is passed it will provide vital information to Florida’s families and allow them to take appropriate action.”