DCPS safety meeting held ahead of upcoming school year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Safety is at the top of parents’ minds ahead of the new school year, and Duval County Public Schools is looking to address any security concerns parents may have.

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On Tuesday, a school safety meeting was held before classes start on Monday, and it was the first time the district has done this. It comes just two months after the school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.

The meeting was meant to be more transparent with families, but the school police chief said it’s a balancing act. Police Chief Greg Burton says he wants to make sure there is no doubt that students and faculty will be safe, but they also don’t want schools looking like prisons.

Parents were looking for reassurance and asking to be kept aware of what is going on in their kids’ schools.

“Safety is key. It’s essential for parents’ piece of mind, and of course we want the children to understand it’s not something they should worry about,” said Mark Rivera, a local parent.

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Rivera is a DCPS parent of a 1st grade and a 4th grade student. He said he wants to be aware of the safety measures being taken for the kids.

“We just want to be vigilant but not necessarily live with a fear factor this could happen to us. Although it can, we don’t want to walk around with that type of complex,” he said.

Every DCPS school has an armed police officer or safe school officer, DCPS Police Chief Greg Burton said staff is required to do monthly lockdown, active shooter and emergency drills.

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He also said the district has more than 18,000 cameras at high schools and thousands more at middle and elementary schools to monitor what is going on in a live feed.

“We have a very robust system and protocols to make sure their students are safe because the state of Florida takes safety seriously,” he said.

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Action News Jax learned there were 108 threats made against DCPS schools last school year to shoot up, blow up, bomb or bring a gun to school.

Chief Burton said they investigated over 900 in general last year and take all threats seriously.

“We will investigate and go to your home, ask for permission to search the home for weapons and we will then write reports, very in depth reports on all the steps we took,” he said.

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Just two months ago, a partnership began between DCPS and the city of Jacksonville devoted to bringing in the company Armoured One to enhance school safety. Burton said they’re in discussion with them about active shooter training.

“They go more in depth than the “Run Hide Fight,” so we have several of our administrators taking the training to determine if we’re going to use it,” he said.

For Rivera, he said he wants to make sure there’s accountability and transparency.

“The teachers are extensions of the parents, and the parents put a lot of trust in what the teachers are doing and the administration of doing so we want to be aware of general practices,” he said.

There is also a new safety app DCPS is using, and all teachers are required to have it on them for access in case of an emergency.