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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High

Grand jury says Florida schools are moving too slowly to boost safety

Dec. 12, 2019
The panel says "turf wars" among districts, law enforcement and other agencies would hamper response to a crisis.

A grand jury looking into the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting has admonished school districts, law enforcement and other local jurisdictions over continued "turf wars" that could hamper the response to another crisis.

WTVJ-TV reports that the statewide grand jury has concluded that the continued squabbling and other "systemic" failures were urgent enough that it was necessary to call attention to the problem in a second interim report.

The panel has suggested that lawmakers give the state Department of Education authority to monitor and enforce compliance with a raft of laws put in place following the February 2018 shooting that killed 17 people, including 14 students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the state Supreme Court impanel a grand jury for a yearlong review of school safety.

“Squabbling between local and regional stakeholders over land rights, quality of service and the financing of various projects actively and currently hampers the stakeholders overall ability to identify and communicate potential threats and to react appropriately in crisis scenarios,” the grand jury wrote.

[Read the latest grand jury report (18 pages)].

Many of the grand jury's concerns aren't new, including concern over antiquated radios and communications systems, staffing, and whether to arm school employees.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, operating under the auspices of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has pointed out many of the same concerns.

The commission released its second report to lawmakers last month and called for improved mental health services, including more funding, to help schoolchildren deal with the stresses in their lives.

Lawmakers responded to the commission’s first set of recommendations by enacting a package of school safety measures, including raising the legal age for gun purchases, requiring armed security officers on every campus, and adopting a “red flag” law.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who provided the latest grand jury findings to reporters, urged school districts to do a better job in complying with state laws.

“This latest grand jury report confirms what many of us have feared," she says, “that our schools are still not as safe as they could be.”

The panel said noncompliance with state laws continues to be “a persistent problem, even with Florida school districts under heavy scrutiny.”

It was clear, the grand jury said, that “the threat of public shaming or indictment is no longer on the table” and that state lawmakers need to step in to designate an agency to ensure compliance.

The grand jury suggested that the Florida Department of Education take on that role.

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