Gov. DeSantis signs school safety package

The law is an update to the 2018 law passed in response to the state's worst school shooting at a Parkland high school.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an update to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act Tuesday that will bolster school crisis intervention and include charter schools in some safety requirements.

The new law aims to improve earlier legislation passed in response to the state’s worst school shooting in 2018 at MSD High School in Parkland. Testimony during this year’s Senate and House hearings on the update revealed none of the state’s 67 school districts were entirely in compliance with the law that aimed to improve school safety.

So the new law will cement some new requirements and increase school districts’ accountability.

“Every child needs a safe and secure learning environment,” DeSantis said in a statement. “By signing HB 1421, we continue to build on the many steps we have taken since 2019 to implement the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, while also making record investments in mental health and school safety.”

Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins and Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky sponsored the bill (HB 1421), and the Senate adopted that after Sen. Joe Gruters introduced similar legislation (SB 802). It passed unanimously in both chambers.

The Governor highlighted a number of provisions in the 19-page law. The law will:

— Extend the term of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission from 2023 to 2026.

— Increase the powers of the Education Commissioner to enforce, rather than just oversee, school safety and security compliance.

— Authorize safe school officers to make arrests on charter school property.

— Mandate that safe school officers complete crisis intervention and training to better respond and de-escalate situations.

— Require law enforcement officers to be active at assailant emergency drills at school.

— Require school boards to adopt family reunification plans in the event of an evacuation to avoid the chaotic scene that unfolded after the MSD shooting.

— Require school districts to annually certify at least 80 percent of school personnel have received mandatory youth mental health awareness training.

Tuesday’s signing drew praise from stakeholders, according to the Governor’s Office.

State Board of Education Member Ryan Petty, whose daughter was killed in the MSD rampage, called DeSantis’ action “a huge leap forward.”

“Extending the Commission’s work and requiring mental health and de-escalation training for safe-school officers will make a major difference in mitigating the risk of a future tragedy,” he said.

Tony Montalto, the president of Stand with Parkland who lost of daughter in the shooting, called the legislation “an important next step” to providing students and parents the assurances they need.

“Florida will continue to do everything possible to make sure our schools meet the highest safety standards and that mental health issues associated with school violence are being addressed,” Montalto said.

The Governor’s Office also noted DeSantis has continued to invest in improving students’ mental health and school safety.

The budget has a record $140 million for mental health and $210 million for school safety approved. That includes school hardening grants and youth mental health awareness and assistance training, the release said.

Every year DeSantis has been in office, he’s increased these investments, according to the release. Although his decision to end the state’s biennial participation in the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, which identifies student risks, has come under criticism.

Hunschofsky said she’ll never stop working on keeping this a top priority.

“In 2018, the Florida Legislature passed significant school safety legislation and has continued to show their commitment to making improvements where deficiencies are found,” she said. “As the former Mayor of Parkland, I am pleased to work with Rep. Hawkins and my colleagues to keep school and community safety a top priority in the Florida Legislature and will continue to work on legislation that keeps our students, faculty, staff, and families throughout Florida safe.”

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].


  • Don’t Look Up

    June 7, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    Florida is showing the stress of 20 years of Republican failed leadership. Missing from this article is the fact that Florida has been lacking in educators for quite some time. The problem started in 2016 and hasn’t been improving under DeSantis’s deliberate culture war attacks on educators and his FREEDUMB STATE OF FLORIDA.

    Florida has severe shortages of teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and other support staff needed to serve our students. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the problem, but shortages were a pre-existing condition. Florida has long-standing difficulties with retaining and recruiting public school employees.

    On the eve of a new school year in August 2031, there were nearly 9,000 vacancies for the two groups, breaking down as 4,961 teaching vacancies and 3,753 vacancies for staff.

    Florida voters can correct this dreadful course …..

    • Tom

      June 8, 2022 at 6:47 am

      Right. The Florida Education Assoc suing schools closed showed the corruption of the union and leadership during Covid.

      Gov said your open. Kids were educated period, full stop, not like blue states, corrupt NEA Weingarten.

      NEA asked for DoJ, FBI to arrest parents.

      Your ignorant, Gov and legislature passed two educator raises and bonuses. Get your mouth shut, partisan hack.

      We are talking bout school safety. Which has been drastically improved. It’s a great bill for kids, parents and safety.

      U Pathetic moron.

  • Lynda

    June 7, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    I appreciate the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. DeSantis for listening to the demands of student survivors and parents of the murdered in the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School mass murder. I appreciate the updated bill approved this year as well as the annual increases in funding for school safety ideas including mental health.

    As Texas and the Congress of the USA struggle to agree on which sensible solutions to mass murders will be adopted and implemented, Florida and its state government should be a good example of a state which responded reasonably to the MSD mass murder and the voters’ demands for action which can make a difference for the lives of Florida’s children, seniors and all residents.

  • Tom

    June 7, 2022 at 4:47 pm

    Great Governor and continue responsible legislature keeping faith to provide student, school safety.
    These measure are responsible and help to maintain control before anything can happen.

    Furthermore, America’s Gov and First Lady Casey are committed to guidance, help and counseling pro actively to try to minimize young people becoming fatal. Gov, Casey hash C maxed out on counseling to help children with personal care. Bless him and family!

    Be clear, Gov Ron’s decision to re open schools and stay open is key. All blue state Govs refused as they were in lockstep with nat educ Assoc. to stay closed. Children be dammed.

    Govs decision to keep kids in school saved lives and kept children safe. Parents worked and were able to provide for family.
    Biden is atrocious and safety saved thousands of mid, youth in school.

  • Julio Arruda

    June 7, 2022 at 6:22 pm

    I’m honestly confused. DeSantis OPENLY said he would have VETOED this bill in 2018.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    June 8, 2022 at 7:20 am

    The far left trolls are desperately seeking to distract from astronomical gas prices, hungry babies, miserable economy. They are pathological

Comments are closed.


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