Update for school safety rules gets third committee nod, heads for full Senate

This bill seeks to spur the compliance of all the state's school districts with school safety standards set in 2018.

Updates to improve school safety, bolstering the law passed in the wake of the state’s worst school shooting, received its third and final Senate committee approval Monday as part of a consent agenda approval.

Republican Sen. Joe Gruters introduced the legislation (SB 802) that updates the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. It is named for the Parkland high school where a shooting left 17 dead and 17 others hurt after a former student’s deadly rampage.

“This … addresses the recommendations by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission,” Gruters said.

Similar legislation that Republican Fred Hawkins sponsored, (HB 1421), passed the full House last week. Now, the Senate version heads for the full Senate.

The bill’s provisions are aimed at rectifying the difficulties that schools have had complying with the previous act’s requirements. Some of the committee stops for the House bill included testimony that none of the state’s 67 school districts are in complete compliance with the state’s school safety rules passed in 2018.

The new legislation would withhold state funds, discretionary grant funds and discretionary lottery funds until the school district complies with the law. The bill also calls for monthly or periodic reporting about the failure to comply until the school district is complying with the rules, according to an analysis of the bill. Districts that don’t comply also would be ineligible for competitive grants.

Other provisions of the bill include:

— Having safe-school officers receive mental health crisis intervention training.

— Extending the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s term so it will continue overseeing the implementation of safety measures until 2026, moving it beyond the scheduled sunset date in 2023.

— Reporting school safety and environmental data in a uniform, easy-to-read format.

— Having the state Board of Education set the timing and frequency of emergency drills.

— Mandating schools’ plans to leverage the use of social media and other information systems, such as the attendance record of that day, to speed reunification of students with their parents if the school building is unexpectedly evacuated or closed because of an emergency

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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