More than a year after the Florida Legislature passed a law requiring armed guards at every school in the state and improving the access of mental health services for students after the Parkland shootings, a grand jury cited “evidence of noncompliance” among certain school districts in an interim report released last week.
Gov. Ron DeSantis convened the statewide grand jury to ensure compliance with two pieces of school-safety legislation, Senate Bill 7026, passed last year, and the controversial Senate Bill 7030, which the Legislature passed this year and allows public school teachers to be armed in classrooms.
Both were passed following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
“Initially, we have seen and heard troubling evidence of conflicts between school district officials and law enforcement agencies regarding who is ultimately responsible for executing and enforcing SB 7026 and SB 7030,” the grand jury wrote in a scathing report issued Friday. “It appears that at least some of these officials have failed — or refused — to accept their responsibility for school safety.”
SB 7026, also known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on March 9, 2018. It enabled local sheriffs — at the discretion of school districts — to establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to train school employees as armed guards. Feis, a 37-year-old assistant football coach, was one of 17 students and faculty members killed in the shooting.
The legislation also mandated that the state implement new incident-reporting tools and security risk assessment programs, while SB 7030, which passed in May, removed a provision from the first piece of legislation that barred classroom teachers from serving as guardians. DeSantis, Scott’s successor, signed the bill into law in May.
Due to state laws regarding grand jury information, Friday’s report was limited to vague criticisms and did not specifically name school districts at fault or what their violations were.
“We find that law enforcement and school district officials have had sufficient time to bring their districts into compliance with these laws, and we fully expect that these officials will use the remaining days before the first day of the 2019-20 school year to do whatever it takes to bring these districts into full compliance,” the report said.
Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a statement calling on “all Florida school districts to fully comply with student safety laws.”
The first day of school in Miami-Dade County’s public schools is Aug. 20. In Broward County, it’s Aug. 14, or three weeks away.
“Unfortunately, the interim report does not name the school districts that are out of compliance with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act, but the districts are certainly aware,” Moody said. “So, let me be very clear, elected officials in school districts blatantly and irresponsibly shirking these extremely important public safety measures, need to take steps immediately to comply with the law before the school year begins and we put our children in your trust and care.”