JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A year after the massacre in Parkland, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking steps to make sure school districts are complying with a sweeping public safety law passed in the wake of the deadly school shooting.
DeSantis on Wednesday called for the state Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate whether individual districts are following the rules outlined in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which required districts to shore up school security.
Among other things, the panel would investigate if any districts are putting students at risk by disobeying the law, if any districts accepted state funding but did not use it as intended, and if school officials are misleading the state Board of Education by underreporting crimes on campus.
It remains unclear how the jurors would be selected, or what the consequences might be for a school district found in incompliance. News4Jax reached out to the governor’s office for clarification about these questions, but as of Thursday evening, we had not received a response.
The Supreme Court still must approve the governor’s request. Then a judge from Broward County will be selected to head the grand jury.
The law, signed last March by DeSantis’ predecessor Rick Scott, earmarked $162 million for districts to hire school resource officers and roughly $99 million more to enhance school security through upgrades including bulletproof glass, hardened points of entry and surveillance systems.
It also codified several new gun control measures, such as raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm, banning bump stocks and empowering judges and law enforcement officers to seize guns from Floridians believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
In addition to funding for school resource officers and security measures, legislators also included about $69 million for mental health resources and about $67 million for what’s known as the guardian program. The guardian program allows schools to arm their employees.
At Wednesday’s announcement, DeSantis disclosed that about $50 million set aside for the guardian program remained unclaimed. Though the program pays for districts to train and arm their own employees, many districts indicated they felt more comfortable hiring law enforcement.
Laurie Cutlip, a mother of three who has children in Duval County schools, said in today’s climate schools definitely need more protection, but she doesn’t know if arming school employees is necessarily the answer.
“It’s not even if you’re for or against guns, but if there’s someone who’s trained and their job is to protect the kids, I mean, why not?” Cutlip told News4Jax. “We secured after 9/11, we secured the airports. Let’s secure our schools.”
School districts, including Duval and Nassau, said they began taking steps to make their schools more secure even before the tragedy in Parkland. They told News4Jax they continue to react and add new measures as needed to follow the law and keep students and staff safe.
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