Student safety workshops held in Tallahassee after school shooting

Students who survived mass shooting plan to meet with legislators this week

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Associated Press, Troy Campbell - Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Less than a week after 17 students and teachers were fatally gunned down at a Florida high school, Gov. Rick Scott hosted a series of meetings in Tallahassee on Tuesday to address student safety, mental health and firearm policies.

“I have spent the last week in Parkland talking to members of the community, students and families of the victims who are suffering following this horrific shooting," Scott said. "While there are only three weeks left of the legislative session, we must make changes to keep students safe."

[News 6 reporter Nadeen Yanes will be in Tallahassee for the discussions, see a recap of updates at the bottom of this story.]

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Nikolas Cruz, 19, faces 17 counts of murder in connection with the mass shooting after admitting to carrying out the attack in Broward County.

Student survivors of the deadly shooting have quickly become the face of a revived gun control movement.

One hundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School began their bus ride of more than 400 miles Tuesday to the state capital to urge lawmakers to act to prevent a repeat of the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last week.

A group of Parkland students meet with legislators Tuesday and will hold a public rally Wednesday.

Brooke Radcliffe, 18, said that as a senior at Apopka High School, she plans to travel to Tallahassee on Wednesday for the public rally. 

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"I don't think that my generation is going to lay down and accept for this to not change," she said. "It's not an option to stay the same. I'm 18. I'm old enough to vote now. I just registered to vote. I have friends who are registering to vote and that's something we are taking a lot of pride in."

Her mother, Valerie Radcliffe, who serves as the vice president of education for the Orange County Council of PTAs, said she will also travel to the state Capitol to urge young people to use their voices.

"We cry, we say no more," she said. "We fight both sides of the aisle and then nothing gets done. I think this is the right mix with frustration and aggravation."

Orange County School Board chairman Bill Sublette said he won't be going to Tallahassee this week, but urged elected officials to address what he calls a shortage of mental health workers in schools.

"We need more mental health counseling in our schools, pure and simple," Sublette said. "State of Florida has one of the lowest ratios of our entire country of child counselors to students."

Scott said the focus and goal of the meetings is "to find solutions on how to prevent violence in our schools and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals."

Law enforcement, school leaders and mental health experts took part in the meetings Tuesday at the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Sheriffs Association.

The three workshops and a roundtable focused on school safety and how to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illness, according to officials with the governor's office.

Orlando police Chief John Mina and other Central Florida law enforcement leaders were vocal in their demands for more funding for school resource officers, as well as the power to prevent people evaluated under the Baker Act from obtaining weapons.

Florida teacher of the year and Leesburg High School teacher Tammy Jerkins was part of the education workshop.

"I think that Leesburg High is doing a good job, we do have drills to practice for active shooters so I'm proud of how our administration is preparing," Jerkins said. 

Educators also heard from Stephen Marante, who lives in Parkland, and serves as a student representative on the Broward County School Board. He called for metal detectors, mandatory active shooter drills and more school resource officers, one for every 1,000 students.

Gov. Scott attended the second-half of the workshops, walking into the education session right as Marante was making his demands on behalf of his fellow students.

"I think it's absolutely urgent that we figure out what to do, we've got to take action," Scott said. "We've got to figure out how to make sure that every parent is comfortable when their child goes to school in Florida that they are going to come that night alive and safe."

In the mental health workshop, which included physicians and representatives from the Department of Children and Families, a plan was formed to create a universal screening program for all students, similar to vision and hearing tests.

Scott ended the day hosting a roundtable with representatives from state leaders, hearing from each member about the takeaways from the mental health, education and law enforcement contingents.



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