Florida's schools will soon employ a new state-mandated approach to mental health and campus security.
On Tuesday, the School Board of Manatee County will review possible updates to its 2018-2019 Code of Student Conduct, including changes required by Senate Bill 7026, signed into law by Gov Rick Scott less than a month after the school massacre in Parkland. The law is officially known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
Board members inspect, revise and approve possible changes each year. On Tuesday, the district will also consider a slight revision to its dress code, prompted by an April 2 incident at Braden River High School.
A public hearing on the possible changes will likely be held in late July.
One proposed change deals with sending students to mental health agencies. Administrators, law enforcement officers or a new threat assessment team can identify students as a concern under Florida Statute 1012.584.
"These services may be provided on campus or though off-campus mental health providers," the draft Code of Conduct states.
The statute was created under the new Public Safety Act. Starting in the 2018-2019 school year, the Florida Department of Education will use a training program for mental health awareness. With help from the program, personnel in all K-12 schools are expected to identify substance abuse or emotional disturbances among students.
Another proposed change is to add a section on the Baker Act and Marchman Act, explaining how students could be removed from school, district transportation or a school-sponsored activity if they are deemed an immediate threat to themselves or others.
Florida Statute 1006.07 also expanded under the new law. Under the existing statute, students were required to list their previous expulsions or arrests when they transferred to a new school district.
Now, students must also note any times they were referred to a mental health service.
Manatee's school district also broadened the definition of what constitutes a threat against more than 60 area schools.
Under the proposed changes, a section titled "Bombs, Bomb Threats and Firearms" would change to simply read, "Threats Against Schools." The revision prohibits threats of any kind against a school and its staff or students, and it would likely be merged with an existing section on violent threats.
The updated section goes on to explain how threats come in many forms.
"This includes direct, veiled, or implied threats communicated verbally, in writing, or through social media," it states.
In Manatee County, more than a dozen threats and several arrests followed the shooting in Parkland.
Police arrested a a 14-year-old student at Manatee High School after he allegedly posted a threatening letter in a school bathroom, pledging to carry out a school shooting. Authorities arrested another student who allegedly used Snapchat, a social media application, to threaten Braden River Middle School.
The district may also strengthen the language in its ban on firearms. Previously, it said the district "reserves the right to prohibit any firearms from being stored in student vehicles."
If approved by the school board, a new code would say the district "strictly prohibits firearms from being stored in student vehicles."
Also on the agenda
School "guardians" will soon have a part in identifying troubled students and enforcing the Code of Conduct.
The armed position was created under the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, another result of the Public Safety Act. Though they have no law enforcement authority, incoming guardians will train for more than 140 hours at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
On Tuesday, board members will decide whether to approve job descriptions for the guardians and their supervisors, who will work to guard dozens of district schools.
Anyone who is at least 21 years old and who holds a high school diploma is eligible to apply for a guardian position, according to the draft description. If necessary, the guardians are expected to prevent or stop an active assailant, defined as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people."
They are also expected to conduct "appropriate searches," and to monitor students throughout each school, including in the hallways, cafeterias, parking lots and restrooms.
According to the draft, guardians will be paid about $20 to $33 per hour.
Lead guardians have similar duties, along with a responsibility to supervise the other guardians. They need a high school diploma or the equivalent, and they must have five years of experience in armed security duties, the draft states. The proposed salary is between about $37,600 to $60,475 per year.
Manatee's school district will also hire a director of safety and security, as required by the new law. Applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field, and at least 10 years of experience in law enforcement, military service or private security management.
Among other responsibilities, the director will conduct inspections, secure campuses, develop new policies and train district employees.
The position is expected to pay between $71,685 to $112,286 per year.