JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County Public Schools is set to receive $8.7 million in funding for school safety from the state.
Action News Jax investigator Courtney Cole learned that amount is up nearly 16% since just last year.
However, money for school safety won't just come from the state.
The budget for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year will also pay for other safety-related things including the school police department, as well as adding things such as fencing, cameras and metal detectors to make schools more of a hard target.
"Putting your kids out there and not even knowing the security of your child is extremely scary to me," Sarah Okor said.
Okor told Cole she's glad Duval County Public Schools takes school safety seriously.
"One thing I like about the schools in Duval, they try as much as they can to do the drill with the kids," Okor said.
Okor's three kids are just a fraction of the 129,000 who will be back under the care of DCPS starting next Monday.
Ahead of their arrival, the Duval County School Board has already begun to talk dollars for the 2019-2020 school budget.
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While it won't be finalized until September, the school district says one of the main things that will impact the final budget is maintaining the partnership with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for their School Safety Assistant Program.
Last year, the director of the Duval County School Police Department said it only had $3.6 million with which to use.
This year, the state is giving DCPS $8.7 million that must be used for school safety.
The state is also giving Duval County Public Schools $3.2 million for mental health assistance.
Dale Carson, our Action News Jax law and safety expert, believes that will be a crucial part to keeping our children safe.
"We need to find a way to identify these people in advance and make certain they don't have access to firearms or any other dangerous device," Carson told Cole.
Now that we've talked money, let's take a look at the practices, procedures and technology being used to keep your children safe this school year.
"You tell them about sounds, how to react, and what to do in certain situations. Types of people to look for, mannerisms, temperament. I teach my kids things like that," said Ryan Wood, who has four kids going back to school in Duval County on Monday.
Wood told Cole he's been having these types of conversations with his children long before the tragic mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas over the weekend.
"I think most of that should come from the parents. I think the schools are doing what they can," Wood said.
He said he and his children all feel like the schools they go to are pretty safe.
"They haven't expressed any concerns. We talked about it," Wood said.
Right now, the district told Cole safety and security efforts in Duval County include:
- A safety plan reviewed each semester
- An emergency response team
- School police and safety assistants
- Camera surveillance
- A district emergency communications network
- Fire drills
- Emergency and lockdown drills
All things our Action News Jax law and safety expert says are necessary for one main reason: "All schools are basically soft targets. And what soft target means is they're open campuses, so they're not closed off into one building where there's only one door going in and out. That is a potential problem," Carson said.
Cole also talked to Martin Lopez, the owner of Red Team Training. An instructor with Red Team Training, as well, he's certified in teaching three active shooter curricula.
He told Cole the most important thing a parent can do is empower their kids to say something when they see something.
"Because the kids are going to be the first one to see these things. They know who's being bullied, they know who's said some things that aren't appropriate. They know who is purposely excluded from activities," Lopez said.
Lopez told Cole it's also important to make sure parents are having a conversation with their school principal about their safety best practices.
Remember the Duval County Public Schools mobile app Cole reported on last week? Inside is a feature called "Fortify Florida" -- which allows you to report threats.
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