Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill (HB 899) into law Wednesday that aims to fill in gaps in the care of students with mental health problems that became apparent after bullets flew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, leaving 17 people dead.
The law will require each school district to have a mental health coordinator, much like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act requires each school to have a school safety coordinator.
It also requires that any student receiving behavioral health services through school also be connected with community resources to allow for better coordination between the school and the community.
Tony Montalto, president of Stand with Parkland, founded in the wake of the shooting, said he was “ecstatic” to hear of DeSantis’ signing. Montalto, whose daughter Gina died in shooter Nikolas Cruz‘s deadly rampage, helped Rep. Christine Hunschofsky draft the law.
The law doesn’t require extra costs, but provides for better matching of services to students who need it, he said.
“Mr. Cruz had a lot of help offered and available to him, however, we saw him slip through the cracks,” Montalto said. “We saw a lack of coordination regarding the services he received. And it’s our hope that by having a single point of contact with that mental health coordinator for each school district in Florida, they’re able to concentrate especially on kids that have gone through a behavioral threat assessment and help to manage their care.”
Another change requires the state’s charter schools to report data to the Florida Department of Education (DOE) on the involuntary examination of students. It also directs the DOE to share the school district-reported data with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) by July 1.
The bill requires the DCF to use this data in its biennial analysis of involuntary examinations of minors in Florida.
Hunschofsky said the law will mean more accountability.
“It’s also helping with coordination because the Office of Safe Schools will know who the point person is” overseeing mental health services, she said.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has the distinction of being the site of the deadliest high school shooting in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 people, including the perpetrators, in April 1999.