School Security Back in Spotlight After DeSantis Signs Bill Two Weeks After Uvalde Massacre
Investigators search for evidence outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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A school-safety measure signed this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis flew relatively under the radar during the 2022 legislative session, but the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has brought securing campuses back to the forefront.

DeSantis quietly signed the measure Tuesday without one of his frequent bill-signing events, two weeks after 19 children and two teachers were killed in the Texas shooting.

Appearing Wednesday in Fort Myers Beach, DeSantis touted Florida as a leader in “focusing on making our schools safe.”

“If you’re one of these nutjobs, just know, if you try that here, you’re going to end up on your ass. And it’s not going to end up being pretty. You’re not going to walk out of there alive,” DeSantis said of school shooters.

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The measure he signed (HB 1421) will require such things as mental-health “crisis intervention” training for on-campus officers.

For law-enforcement officers stationed at schools, the training must be aimed at improving “skills as a first responder to incidents involving students with emotional disturbance or mental illness,” including de-escalation strategies.

The State Board of Education will craft rules for emergency drills, such as practice for “active assailant and hostage situations.” That is currently guided by district school boards’ policies.

Among other school-safety changes, the law will extend the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission until 2026. The state formed the commission after the 2018 Parkland school shooting, which killed 17 students and faculty members.

State Board of Education member Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Parkland shooting, touted the part of the bill that will extend the school-safety commission.

“Extending the commission’s work and requiring mental health and de-escalation training for safe-school officers will make a major difference in mitigating the risk of a future tragedy,” said Petty, who is a member of the commission.

But the new law drew criticism from Bacardi Jackson, interim director of children’s rights for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, who called the commission “controversial.”

“The commission is known for its imprudent recommendations that disregard the very students who survived the MSD (Marjory Stoneman Douglas) tragedy and ignore evidence-based strategies and concerns about how excessive surveillance and police presence inside schools endanger Black and Brown students, as well as students with disabilities,” Jackson said.

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News Service of Florida Staff
News Service of Florida Staff
Florida News Service is the largest legislative news team in the state, providing provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of House and Senate sessions and more.

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Adam Baron Law