School safety measures advance in the Florida House

Fence at a Florida elementary school. By Pamela Robinson/WMNF News (2022).

©2024 The News Service of Florida

A Florida House panel on Wednesday approved two bills aimed at bolstering security at public schools and Jewish day schools, with the proposals now poised for consideration by the full House.

The House Education & Employment Committee unanimously backed the bills on the sixth anniversary of a mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

“We cannot do enough to make our schools safe, but we can do the best we can to try to accomplish that task.

And we’re going to do some of that today, as you know,” committee Chair Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, said as the meeting started.

The bill about public schools (HB 1473) would make various changes that sponsor Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce, said will “continue to build upon what we’ve learned from previous years” of the Legislature passing school-safety measures.

For example, the bill would establish new door-safety requirements, including a mandate that all school gates and access points that “restrict ingress to or egress from” campuses remain closed and locked when students are at school.

Gates and access points could not be opened or unlocked unless they were “actively staffed.”

The bill also would make it a second-degree misdemeanor if people operate drones over public or private schools and a first-degree misdemeanor for using drones to take photos or videos over schools.

The bill calls for the state Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools to conduct unannounced inspections of all public and charter schools every three years.

Members of the committee held a moment of silence before voting to advance the bill.

The proposal about increasing security at Jewish day schools would make funding for various safety measures recurring in each year’s state budget.

The Legislature last year approved spending $30 million to help protect the schools, including $25 million during a special legislative session in November as they cited a rise in anti-Semitic incidents amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

The money would be required to be used for certain improvements, such as security cameras, fencing and hiring of security personnel.

“Every child deserves to be safe at school. That’s included with the price of admission for being a Floridian,” bill sponsor Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, said.

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