Gov. DeSantis issues executive order for school security improvements, accountability

Announcement comes before state recognizes 1 year since Parkland shooting

By Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - One day before the state recognizes one year since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he has issued an executive order designed to improve school security measures.

DeSantis, alongside Andy Pollack, whose daughter died in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018, said there needs to be measures to make sure districts are meeting the requirements laid out in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act

Part of that act called for the creation of the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which allows districts to hire and train armed guardians to protect school campuses. The problem is, according to DeSantis, that $50 million appropriated to that program has not been accessed because districts did not meet the deadline to apply for that money.

“You’re talking about $50 million that’s available for enhancements to security,” DeSantis said Wednesday in Titusville.

That application process will be reopened until April 1.

In Central Florida, both Volusia and Polk counties have implemented a guardian program while other districts instead opted to place school resource officers on every campus to fulfill state requirements.

Another component of the executive order requires school district officials to submit details about their leniency programs so that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice can analyze the effectiveness of those programs in terms of their impact on public safety, cost and other factors.

“We do need to work to ensure that dangerous individuals don’t slip through the cracks in school-based discipline diversion programs, such as the Promise Program that was used in Broward County school district,” DeSantis said.

Districts must submit that information by July 1.

Also by July 1, the Department of Education must develop best practices for school hardening so it can be disseminated to school districts before the next academic year begins. Then, by Aug. 1, the DOE and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement need a method for improving data access that can access related to threats.

DeSantis said $3 million was allocated to the DOE to have that done by December 2018 as part of the Safety Act, but more than two months past the deadline, it still has not been done.

"This was supposed to be done by Dec. 1, 2018, yet it's not been done at all, and this has been an unacceptable lack of progress on both the social media component and the larger data repository component, and so I'm not going to stand for bureaucratic ineptitude," DeSantis said.

DeSantis said in many mass shooting incidents, the suspected gunman showed red flags or warning signs that went ignored. That's why DeSantis wants a threat-assessment strategy for law enforcement statewide.

"When you see all the indicators, there or some of the indicators there, it's better to have an intervention than to just kind of hope that if someone's just showing a threat that somehow they're not going to act on it," DeSantis said.

With his executive order, the governor hopes to make schools safer and deter anyone from causing harm on campus.

“If you do the security right and people realize that the schools are secure, these people who may wan to do harm are gonna realize that that’s not a good place to try to do that, and they’re going to be deterred from even trying to do it if you do it right,” Desantis said.

Another announcement is scheduled later Wednesday afternoon in Broward County.

Below is the full list provided by the governor's office detailing the mandates of executive order 19-45:

  • Directs the Department of Education (DOE) to audit all 67 county school districts to ascertain any and all types of school-based discipline diversion programs in place, such as the “PROMISE” program in the Broward County School District.
  • Specifies that the audit should determine the requirements for eligibility and operation of these programs, the costs of these programs, their stated impact on school and public safety, and whether there is evidence to support their continuation, closure or regulation in law.
  • Directs DOE to direct all county school districts to expeditiously provide the information requested. 
  • Directs DOE and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to work in partnership to review and analyze these programs and states that the assessment must, at a minimum, determine whether there is adequate information or evidence available to draw an informed conclusion about the efficacy of these programs and their impact on school and public safety.
  • Directs DOE and DJJ to further work together to develop best-practices and consistent criteria for school-based discipline diversion programs and directs DJJ to complete and submit a report to the Executive Office of the Governor and the Legislature by July 1, 2019.
  • Directs the Commissioner of Education to reopen and extend the application period for participation in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program to April 1, 2019, allowing sheriffs who wish to participate in the program the opportunity to apply. To date, over $50 million of the funds appropriated for the current fiscal year remain unallocated.
  • Directs the Commissioner of Education to immediately communicate to all school district superintendents how to implement compliance with Florida Statutes regarding safe-school officers (school resource officers) and guardians.
  • Directs DOE to immediately take all necessary steps to provide a centralized, integrated data repository and data analytics resources to improve access to timely school safety information, by August 1, 2019 prior to the 2019-2020 school year, with the full support of the Departments of Children and Families, Law Enforcement and Juvenile Justice, and the courts pursuant to requirements of Section 1001.212(6)(a)-(e), Florida Statutes. 
  • Section 1001.212(6)-(9), Florida Statutes, laid out that DOE was supposed to coordinate with FDLE to provide a centralized, integrated data repository and data analytics resources by December 1, 2018. The deadline passed without the requirements being met, which Executive Order 19-45 calls “unacceptable”.  

Click here to read the executive order in its entirety.

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