Update to Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act heads to third Senate committee

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The bill would also extend the term of the special commission established after the state's worst school shooting.

New rules to update legislation passed in the wake of Florida’s worst school shooting received unanimous approval from a Senate subcommittee Wednesday.

Two days after the four-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17, Republican Sen. Joe Gruters bill (SB 802) would also extend the term of the commission charged with overseeing the implementation of school safety rules. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission would not sunset as planned in 2023, but extend to July 2025, legislators in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education agreed.

“Extending the commission another couple of years will allow us to continue to work on those issues that are still outstanding,” Gruters said.

Other provisions of the bill, which is now advancing to its final committee stop, are:

— School safety and environmental data are reported in a uniform, easy-to-read format.

— The state Board of Education sets the timing and frequency of emergency drills.

— Schools have a plan to leverage the use of social media and other information systems, such as the attendance record of that day, to facilitate reunification of students with their parents if the school building is unexpectedly evacuated or closed because of an emergency.

Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky recalled attending a fourth anniversary observance in Parkland, located not far from her home base, on Monday. She said the wounds of the shooting that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others are still fresh.

“There were so many young people there,” she said of the event. “I really appreciate this bill is doing as much as we can for school safety.”

Polsky referenced her four gun-control proposals that have yet to get a hearing. “Of course, I think there is so much more that we can be doing to ensure safety, but I will take what we can get.”

Similar legislation (HB 1421) is moving through the House.

Both bills have dropped a controversial part of the original bills that would have docked Superintendent pay for not complying with the provisions of the law.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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