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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Broward County (Fla.) district spells out how security has improved

The district's new security chief updates the school board on the numerous improvements made since the 2018 shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

The Broward County (Fla.) school district says it has made major strides in protecting students from a shooter like the one who unleashed an attack on one of its high schools in February 2018.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Brian Katz, the district's new chief of safety, security and emergency preparedness, delineated for the school board the improvements put into place in the 19 months since a former student shot 17 people to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Fla.

Among them:

  • Campuses are locked down. Each one now has fencing and gates to limit visitor entry to the front office, he said. Classroom doors are required to be locked.
  • Students are required to wear identification badges.
  • Hard corners or safer spaces, which are places to hide in the event of a shooter, have been identified in several thousand classrooms.
  • The district has spent $6.2 million on video surveillance; 1,593 analytic cameras have been installed and another 900 are scheduled.
  • The district has allocated about $4.5 million to improve its radio system. It has 1,400 new bus radios and five control systems; bus traffic is now off a public countywide system. The district also has 314 portable two-way radios and 1,100 school handheld radios.
  • Broward is spending $17 million on intercoms, which are being connected to a central command center and can be heard in hallways.
  • The district is spending about $21 million in security staff, including unarmed campus monitors and security specialists and armed safe school officers, also known as guardians. Katz says the district is making good progress on hiring staff, but turnover is high among armed guardians, who are being lured by charter schools and law enforcement.

“The thing that will cost us the least amount of money and will be most effective will be training,” Katz says.

Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter died in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, says the district must ensure training is high quality.

“In a fight-or-flight situation, we don’t know how people are going to react,' she says. "Some may freeze. We need to provide very thorough training with examples of how to react.”

School Board Chairwoman Heather Brinkworth says there is still misunderstanding among some regarding the district’s armed security officers. A stae law requires having at least one trained armed official on every campus.

“There are people who think we are arming teachers,” Brinkworth says. “It’s important that our community is really clear what guardians do.”

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