- School districts in Florida have until July 1 to decide if they want to participate in a new program to that would train armed school “guardians” to protect schools, according to the Ocala Star Banner.
- The program is part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March and requires all schools to have sworn law enforcement officers on campus.
- While the state is providing funding to help districts meet the requirement, some officials say it’s not enough and are instead opting to hire lower-paid “safety specialists” to protect schools — essentially a compromise between more expensive school resource officers and the controversial move of arming educators.
As districts across the country review their existing school safety procedures and determine whether to add armed authorities, spend more on mental health services, or a combination of the two, state lawmakers are also taking a variety of approaches to prevent any more school shootings.
According to a recent analysis from the National Council of State Legislatures, roughly 200 school safety bills or resolutions have been introduced in 39 states, ranging from building security upgrades to emergency drills to arming school personnel. The question always comes down to how schools will comply with additional requirements if funds are not appropriated to cover the facility upgrades or salaries for trained personnel — especially at a time when teachers are striking and demonstrating for salary increases.
Meanwhile this week, Safe and Sound Schools, founded by parents who lost their children in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School, released its State of Schools Safety Report 2018. Based on a survey of almost 2,900 parents, students, educators and members of the general public, the report shows that only 10% of educators say their schools have “enough financial resources to improve school safety.” More than 40% said that they have some money for these expenses, but that more would be helpful. The authors of the report recommend better communication between educators and families about safety-related issues and including students in the safety preparedness process. They also recommend broadening threat assessment efforts to consider other dangers and including the input of those with different areas of expertise, such as mental health and wellness.