Gov. DeSantis signs executive order on school safety; calls some measures incomplete and “unacceptable”

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis on school safety. Credit: Florida governor's press office

A day before the one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order outlining how to keep schools safe and finish incomplete safety initiatives considered “unacceptable.”

For example, the order states that the Department of Education and the Department of Law Enforcement by Dec. 1, 2018 were supposed to provide data analysis and other resources to provide timely school safety information that could potentially ward off mass violence incidents in schools.

But the deadline passed and the requirements “have still not been met 75 days later, which is unacceptable.”

In addition, confusion remains among school superintendents over how best to implement programs that put more school safety officers, and different types of officers, in school buildings.

Much has been done already in the aftermath of the shootings in Parkland’s Broward County that killed 17 students and staff on Feb. 14, 2018.

Lawmakers imposed everything from new gun restrictions to increasing law enforcement presence at schools, with use of certified law enforcement officers, security guards, and certain armed school personnel. And a public safety commission worked for months to unravel what went tragically wrong at the high school and how to address the problems statewide.

Even now, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are filing new legislation, hoping to ensure students and staff are safe at schools. And a controversial proposal to allow classroom teachers to be armed is advancing in the state Senate.

As to the governor’s efforts, DeSantis said in a statement that, “While we cannot bring back the innocents lost, we can honor their memory by learning from the mistakes that were made and resolving to swiftly correct all of those within our control.”

The executive order includes a number of measures that can be done through the executive branch rather than through the Legislature, according to the governor’s office.

Those include an audit of 67 school districts related to so-called school discipline diversion programs that can impact school safety; extending deadlines to April, 1, 2019 for districts to participate in so-called “guardian” programs that allow certain school personnel to be armed; and to complete by August 1, 2019  the data and resources project related to timely school school safety information.

In a related matter, DeSantis sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, directing the agency to “develop a unified statewide strategy for identifying and managing threats of targeted violence.”

“We have entered a new era of policing,” DeSantis wrote. “It is of paramount importance that we identify threats before they occur, and do everything within our power to prevent individuals from carrying out acts of targeted violence.”

DeSantis said that in recent years, Florida has encountered numerous mass shootings, including the tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando; the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport; Jacksonville Landing, and the SunTrust Bank in Sebring.





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