Heartbreaking report on school safety

Parkland students leaving school February 14, 2018

The official commission report on the Parkland school shooting tragedy begins with heartache, but its 458 pages outline student mental health and school safety procedures that every teacher and administrator should carefully consider.

The Sun Sentinel headlines findings as “calls for arming teachers, more school security spending”, but there is so much more substance in detail.    

To read the full commission report click here.

The Sun Sentinel summary in part follows:

The state commission investigating the Parkland school shooting unanimously approved a tough final report Wednesday that puts the responsibility for reform on school districts, law enforcement agencies, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis and state legislative leaders.

The 458-page report by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission addresses the cascade of errors revealed in the wake of the shooting, including fumbled tips, lax school security policies and unaggressive Broward sheriff’s deputies who hung back as shots were fired. The report now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, [Gov. elect] DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva.

The report contains dozens of recommendations. Some would require action by the governor and Legislature, such as the proposals to allow some teachers to carry guns and increase spending on school security. It also calls for laws to be changed to allow school districts to raise taxes for security improvements and to require rather than simply permit mental health providers to notify law enforcement if a patient threatens anyone with harm. Many of the proposals were inspired by errors and weak spots that came to light after the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people.

Here are the highlights of the commission’s recommendations:

— Recommendation: Classrooms should have established safety measures, such as hard corners — marked areas not visible from doorways — or other safe areas for students to hide, and teachers should be able to cover door windows quickly.

Status: Varies statewide, like many school security measures. The commission has accused school districts of moving too slowly on safety improvements after the shooting. The Broward school district hasn’t addressed this yet, but Superintendent Runcie said it will begin implementing changes after winter break for classrooms that haven’t already created marked areas.

— Recommendation: Every school should have a clear policy for declaring a Code Red, an emergency lockdown. All personnel should be empowered to call for a Code Red.

Status: Broward still has no policy, but the school board is considering one that would allow anyone to call a Code Red if student safety is at risk.

— Recommendation: All campus gates must remain locked, unless staffed to prevent unauthorized access.

Status: Broward policy calls for perimeter gates to be locked when class is in session. It calls for one gate that’s left open for parent or visitor access to be monitored at all times “to the extent possible.”

— Recommendation: Schools must accurately report crime and safety incidents. A South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation found that Stoneman Douglas failed to alert the state to numerous incidents and that districts throughout the state had not reported incidents such as rape, kidnapping, arson and murder.

Status: Broward’s superintendent pledged to conduct audits of the district’s reporting practices and discipline administrators who under-report incidents. It would be up to the state Legislature to authorize sanctions on school districts that don’t accurately report campus crime.

School district

Law enforcement desperately attempted to distract from their failures and cowardly betrayal of sworn duty to protect.

— Recommendation: Student mental health and counseling records should be part of each student’s school records and follow them from school to school.

Status: Requires legislative action or rule-making by Florida Department of Health.

— Recommendation: School-based arrest diversion programs, such as Broward’s Promise program, should limit the number of referrals a student can receive, report all information to the Department of Juvenile Justice and provide law enforcement with the discretion to make an arrest.

Status: The district has made changes to keep students from going back to the program, due to a state law passed last year that requires law enforcement to be involved once a student commits a second offense.

— Recommendation: All Florida public schools should immediately provide law enforcement with live and real-time access to all school camera systems. The schools districts should provide law enforcement with adequate training to access and operate the cameras.

Status: Broward has not provided outside law enforcement agencies with access to its systems, but its school cameras do operate in real time. The tape delay that confused law-enforcement officers during the Parkland shooting was caused by human error; the system could have been switched to real time, but the operator didn’t realize it wasn’t.

Click here for more from Sun SentinelClick here for the Commission report.

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