What exactly does 'hardening' schools mean?

'Hardening' schools being discussed in state Capitol after Parkland shooting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - There has been a lot of talk in the state Capitol about "hardening" Florida schools since the mass shooting at a Parkland school two weeks ago.

The buzzword for the future is “hardening" schools." But what does that mean? 

In Tallahassee, no one gets into the Capitol without swiping a card or going through a metal detector manned by armed police. 

“There’s no question this building is secure, and every child in every school should feel secure," said Rep. Joe Grueters, R-Sarasota. 

It's a fact not lost on Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.

"No one's worried someone's coming through that door with a gun," Pollack said. 

But, as it turns out, "hardening" means different things to different people.

“Superintendents, principals, teachers are experts at this, if you will, and they cannot tell you exactly what it means to 'harden' a school," said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who's a former school superintendent. 

Experts said the term could refer to a live video feed to police, who can trigger gates to shut down hallway access, or panic buttons or other security enhancements.

“Sometimes, it’s as easy as closing and locking a door," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. 

When Florida State University shooter Myron May wounded three people in 2014, he was kept from doing more damage by a simple swipe card. Security video shows May approaching a turnstile and then turning away when he couldn’t easily enter.

“So, without that turnstile system, our shooter walks right in the library, he finds a comfortable quite place and then he takes out his weapon and he starts shooting," FSU Police Chief David Perry said in Nov. 2015.

When asked about swipe cards for schools, News4Jax was told, very simply, that’s going to be up to each individual district.

For now, attention at the Capitol is on arming teachers or banning assault-style rifles. Little is being said about the specifics on how schools will be "hardened."

Lawmakers are budgeting $400 million for school safety. Most of it will be spent on hiring new school resource officers. 

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