School safety law update heading for full House

Shooting At High School In Parkland, Florida Injures Multiple People
House Education & Employment Committee approve tweaks to 2018 school safety law that no school district has completely complied with.

The final House committee approval for an update to school safety rules Thursday included an acknowledgement that not one school district has completely complied with the rules passed in the wake of Florida’s worst school shooting four years ago.

And so the bill (HB 1421) will bolster the law named for the tragedy, the the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, and rectify the difficulties that schools have had complying with its requirements, according to the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins.

It passed unanimously Thursday at its third committee stop, this time in front of the Education & Employment Committee. It will now head for a full House vote.

“It’s really disappointing that there are schools that are not in compliance,” said Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy. “So many children and adults lost their lives that day … I appreciate you bringing this forward so we can continue to save lives.”

An amendment approved Thursday will mean the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will continue to oversee the implementation of safety measures until 2026, extending it beyond the scheduled sunset in 2023.

Other provisions of the bill 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.

Several legislators in the committee lauded fellow committee member, Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, for the role she has had in making the legislation better and shepherding her community through the shattering events four years ago.

“Thank you for your leadership on this issue,” said Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis Jr., said, addressing Hunschofsky. “We’re so blessed to have you in this chamber and everything that you’ve stood for as Mayor of Parkland and a representative is in this legislation. This will be your legacy.”

Republican Sen. Joe Gruters is sponsoring similar legislation (SB 802) that is moving through the Senate. An amendment adopted Wednesday would sunset the MSD Public Safety Commission a year earlier than the House version.

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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