Legislature approves update to Marjory Stoneman Douglas school safety law

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This bill seeking to spur compliance with school safety standards set in 2018 will await the Governor's signature next.

Updates to improve school safety and bolster the law passed in the wake of the state’s worst school shooting received unanimous approval from the Senate Thursday.

The bill also won unanimous approval in the House. The measure updates the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, which was passed in 2018 and named for the Parkland high school where a shooting left 17 dead and 17 others hurt.

This year’s update clarifies expectations for public and charter schools and requires new training for school safety officers. It will next go to the Governor’s desk to await his signature.

The differences between the bill that won approval in the House and the one that moved through Senate committees were smoothed over when the Senate sponsor, Republican Sen. Joe Gruters substituted the Senate bill (SB 802) he sponsored for the bill (HB 1421) that Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins sponsored in the House.

“The bill strengthens school safety oversight by providing enhanced state-level authority over school safety requirements,” Gruters said.

The bill’s provisions are aimed at rectifying the difficulties that schools have had in 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.

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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