Parkland families make real change years after filming

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In the four years since the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the families of those killed and the students who survived have made real changes to state law. to make Florida schools safer.

They hope to make several other changes in this year’s legislative session with three bills backed by Stand with parkthe advocacy group that grew out of the tragic shooting to help make schools safer.

“These are all of the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission that have yet to be adopted,” Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said during the introduction. SB 802 to the Florida Senate Education Committee.

The bill makes a number of changes to state law, including requiring district school boards to withhold superintendents’ salaries if they fail to meet school safety requirements. It also provides resources for investigating threats and provides penalties for false advice given to FortifyFLthe app to report suspicious activity to law enforcement and school officials.

Tony Montalto, the father of Gina Montalto, who was killed in the shooting, testified before the committee about an additional piece of the bill that directly addresses the failures that led to the Parkland shooting.

“A unified search tool for law enforcement to help prevent information silos, where student protection officials fail to communicate with each other,” said Montalto, president of Stand With Parkland. “These have proven so deadly in my community.”

The bill also brings charter schools into compliance with safety mandates, maintains a director of school diversion programs, and helps improve the behavioral threat assessment used to identify students who pose a danger to them. themselves or for others.

Another bill, SB 1404creates a new section of Florida statutes to list the authorized duties of certified school counselors.

This requires them to meet a number of criteria to be more student-focused, setting out what counselors should and should not do to provide the best student services by “consulting with a variety of stakeholders…to identify and solve student problems, needs and problems”.

One of these requirements is to provide mental health counseling to students who need it.

“Especially in the current youth mental health crisis, wait times to see a therapist can be weeks or even months – currently around 6 months,” an adviser told a committee hearing.

A third invoice, SB 1240, ensures that students referred to a school or community mental health service provider are assessed within 15 days of referral. There are other requirements, including when services should be launched after the assessment.

The new measures follow a series of bills that have become law in Florida in the four years since the shooting.

Within three weeks of the shooting, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act made changes to gun laws many thoughts weren’t possible in Florida.

It raised the minimum age to buy a gun in Florida from 18 to 21, which matches federal law for buying handguns from licensed dealers. This law is still being challenged in court by the NRA.

The law also imposed a 3-day waiting period for firearm purchases and banned “shock stocks”, devices that modify firearms to “imitate the firing of an automatic weapon”. They were used by the shooter during the Las Vegas massacre six months before Parkland. In 2019, the Trump administration would ban them nationwide.

The bill introduced a “red flag” law, which allows law enforcement to seize firearms from someone deemed dangerous to themselves or others, with the approval of a judge.

He established the Safe Schools Office within the Florida Department of Education to implement safe school best practices and created the Safe Schools Awareness Program.

The bill required schools to conduct risk assessments, appoint a school safety specialist and conduct active fire and hostage situation drills ‘at least as often as other emergency drills’ .

Lawmakers also earmarked millions for the bill to strengthen Florida schools, make buildings safer and hire more school resource officers, though the deputy on campus that fateful day did not managed to engage the shooter.

That failure helped inspire Coach Aaron Feis’ bill guard program, allowing sheriffs and school districts to decide whether or not to train school staff to become armed guards on campuses. The following year, a separate bill expanded this program to include teachers.

In 2021, the Legislature passed a bill establishing a parent’s right to timely notification of threats at school or before a child is removed for a Baker Law examination.