ORLANDO, Fla. - Only one central Florida school district requires its students to practice a response to an armed intruder on campus, 9 Investigates has learned.
At the same time, Channel 9’s Karla Ray discovered state law doesn’t require any district to conduct these lockdown drills, though some have been doing so voluntarily following the deadly shootings inside Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School late last year.
Melissa Ramb has a daughter in second-grade at a local public school, and she feels safe leaving her at there.
"You can't prevent evil from the world, but you can be prepared for situations, and I think they're very prepared, and more so since Connecticut," Ramb said.
But she might want to think again. Even after the Sandy Hook tragedy in December, the Columbine Massacre nearly 14 years ago and the dozens of school shootings in between, 9 Investigates found out Florida schools require only fire drills.
Video from more than 10 years ago shows the last time Channel 9 was allowed in to show such a drill.
Digging through state statutes, Ray found that fire drills are practiced once a month at every public school in Florida.
Those same schools are never required to practice a response to someone with a weapon.
“They're not required to do any sort of lockdown practice?” Ray asked John Cherry with the state Department of Education in Tallahassee.
“Not currently, no,” Cherry said.
“Why?” Ray asked.
“The law doesn’t specify that,” Cherry explained.
Orange County Public Schools voluntarily put a lockdown policy in place this semester, but Channel 9 found no other central Florida district has taken the same measures.
Other voluntary "safety procedures" are tracked only within local offices. The paperwork generated by schools and districts is never reviewed or evaluated by the Department of
"Should the state be doing more to make sure that they are actually employing these procedures and putting these policies in place?" Ray asked
"It's not my call," Cherry answered. "Honestly."
The DOE doesn't check up on what schools are doing because it says state legislators who work across town in Tallahassee haven't required the department to monitor armed intruder and lockdown drills.
"If it requires a law to do that, then we should do that," said Rep. Linda Stewart.
Channel 9 took its findings to Stewart, whose grandchildren were among those in Orange County Public Schools participating in newly required lockdown drills this semester.
Stewart said she's open to legislation to require other districts to do the same thing.
"If you go a whole year or two and something were to happen, that would be pretty daunting for particularly young people to know what to do," she said.
Her hope is to make sure kids across the state are as prepared as little Emma Ramb.
"It would be great to practice them. It would be great to have it be policy, and I
guess I'm surprised to hear that it's not," her mother, Melissa Ramb, said.