JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis is soon expected to sign into law this year’s effort to improve school safety in Florida.
The bill was officially sent to his office just one day after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
This year’s bill makes a number of changes, some small, others more significant, but it’s all part of a multi-year effort to improve school safety that has been continuous since the 2018 Parkland shooting.
HB 1421 increases penalties for submitting false reports to Fortify Florida, the state’s tip line for school-related suspicious activity.
“The problem is when you have a false report that someone is just doing because they think it’s funny or something, they’re diverting resources from an actual report that might have to be investigated,” said State Representative Christina Hunschofsky (D-Coconut Creek).
Bill sponsor Hunschofsky said the change she’s most proud of in this year’s bill requires districts to develop a reunification plan to get students back to their parents in emergency situations.
She was mayor of Parkland at the time of the 2018 school shooting and remembers the chaos that ensued when the bullets stopped.
“First it was gonna be at a park, then they were looking for another location. They finally ended up at the Marriot and just having that chaos when people and parents just want to see their children and hug them and make sure they’re okay is only adding to the stress and anxiety,” said Hunschofsky.
The bill also directs the Department of Education to come up with standard procedures and frequency of active shooter drills.
Current law mandates the drills once a month.
“It’s important that there is uniformity. It’s important that we have a set of best practices,” said Hunschofsky.
Another critical piece of the bill mandates crisis intervention training for school safety officers.
“De-escalation is incredibly important and it’s good for them to have the tools to be able to do that,” said Hunschofsky.
Hunschofsky assured this year’s bill is far from the end of lawmakers’ work on this issue.
“There is always more to do, but it’s important that every legislative session we keep our eye on this and we don’t forget it’s important to keep school safety front and center,” said Hunschofsky.
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