After Parkland: Florida schools push for flexibility in security and spending

Video: 9 Investigates the changes local schools want to see to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act

ORLANDO, Fl. — In the weeks after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida lawmakers cobbled together a response designed to address three critical areas: guns, mental health, and school safety.

Now almost a year later, schools are seeking clarification and flexibility in how security is handled.

Parts of law are up for review this year ahead of the 2019 legislative session.  Those parts include security assessments, how funds are spent, and how many active shooter drills must be conducted. On each of these issues, schools across the state have varying concerns.

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“It’s not a one size fits all legislation, we want to work with our legislators to make sure we have as much local control and flexibility that we can have, every one of our schools is different, and we want to make sure we have the flexibility to make those decisions,” said Seminole County School Board Member Tina Calderone.

Seminole, which already had armed security on every campus before 2018, is one of the schools pushing for changes to how and where money is spent, suggesting it could make better use of the funds to carry out school-hardening.

“I’m not sure I see an equitable average here, I see some schools that end up with a $30,000 fund per school, and some at $50,000,” said Senator Janet Cruz (D Tampa) at a January 8 Senate Education Committee meeting while questioning school hardening funds distribution.  “Why didn’t we make it even, if you have more schools in your district you are penalized versus another district that has fewer schools.”

Schools will also be looking for guidance on the number active-shooter drills each must carry out.

Right now, schools are required to conduct ten fire drills a year, despite the fact that no student has died in a school fire in a half a century.  Suggestions have been made to supplement some of those fire drills for active-shooter drills to help prepare students, while not taking away for classroom time.