The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a yearlong statewide grand jury to investigate crimes related to school safety issues following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February.
The Monday order comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis petitioned the high court on Feb. 13 to impanel a statewide grand jury.
The action is unusual in that Floridians might think of organized crimes or drug smuggling when it comes to a statewide grand jury. But in this case, it’s about public education and the safety of schoolchildren.
The governor’s petition outlined the “mass murder” at the high school that “drew attention to systematic failures by school officials and other State actors to ensure student safety. Unfortunately, these failures are not unique, and they have not ceased.”
The shootings at the Parkland high school in Broward County last February left 17 students and staff dead.
Chief Justice Charles Canady and all justices concurred with “promptly” impaneling a statewide grand jury “for a term of twelve calendar months.”
The court said DeSantis “has shown good and sufficient reason exists and that it is in the public interest to impanel a statewide grand jury, with jurisdiction throughout the State of Florida, to investigate crime, return indictments, make presentments.”
The order includes a list of offenses to investigate, including:
Refusing or failing to follow school safety laws, resulting in risks to students across the state;
Committing “fraud and deceit” by accepting state funds conditioned on putting in place certain safety measures “while knowingly failing to act.”
Committing fraud and deceit by mismanaging, failing to use or diverting multi-million dollars bonds “specifically solicited for school safety initiatives,”
And violating state law by systematically under reporting incidents of criminal activity to the Florida Department of Education.
Broward Circuit Chief Judge Jack B. Tuter, Jr., will be the presiding judge over the statewide grand jury, and members will be drawn from jury lists from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach judicial circuits.