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Recommendations filed to prevent future school shootings

Posted at 6:36 AM, Jan 02, 2019

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted Wednesday to provide its initial report on how to prevent future school shootings to the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is the chairman and is leading much of the effort in recommending changes. They include allowing school classroom doors to lock from the inside, mandatory lockdown training for teachers, better exterior camera coverage and PA systems to alert staff and students to Code Red Alerts. It also includes something controversial: Arming willing teachers.

Another recommendation involves behavioral threat assessment teams who would be able to more easily communicate with school administrators and law enforcement.

The report also calls out school districts who have been slow to implement safety changes. “There remains non-compliance and a lack of urgency to enact basic safety principles in Florida’s K-12 schools,” the report says. “All stakeholders—school districts, law enforcement, mental health providers, city and county governments, funding entities, etc.—should embrace the opportunity to change and make Florida schools the safest in the nation. There must be a sense of urgency—and there is not, across-the-board—in enhancing school safety.”

The report also takes an intensive look at school shootings across the country. Among the 46 targeted attacks reviewed, 33 of the attackers were students and 10 were former students, or insiders. Only five attacks were initiated by strangers, or outsiders, the findings show.

Even more telling was that all middle school attacks were by insiders and all but one of high school attacks were by insiders. Only at the elementary school level were the majority of attacks committed by outsiders, according to the report.

Since most attackers could not legally purchase the weapons utilized, the source of the weapons is a relevant factor. Fifty percent of the weapons were stolen from parents or relatives, according to the report.

All attackers, ages 11 through 15, obtained their weapons by stealing them from parents or relatives, the report finds. Beginning at age 16, ownership of weapons begins to emerge among the attackers. Some theft from relatives and parents continues in this age group up through 19, findings show.

The report also uncovers issues with how responding deputies handled mitigating the threat during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, including giving bad directions and relaying improper information.

The report also finds there was overwhelming evidence that Deputy Scot Peterson, who responded to the shooting, knew that the gunshots were coming from within the immediate area of building 12 of the school, but failed to investigate the source of the gunshots.

The report goes on to state:
Deputy Peterson responded to the area of building 12 within approximately 1 minute 39 seconds after the first shots were fired. Prior to his arrival 21 victims had already been shot, 9 of which were fatally wounded. This makes clear that seconds matter and that SRO’s (school resource officers) cannot be relied upon as the only protection for schools. Even if there is a rapid response by an SRO, it is insufficient in and of itself to safeguard students and teachers.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is a body created by specific statutory enactment. Members of the Commission were appointed by the Governor, President and Speaker. FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen serves as a member of the Commission and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is the chairman.

ABC Action News spoke with parents and students regarding the new report. St. Petersburg dad Dru Rabin says it is a good start, but he still feels nervous sending his daughters off to school in the wake of the Parkland shooting. “It’s like from the moment they get on the bus until you get them home at the end of the day, I think it’s just part of parenting now that you’re concerned.” Rabin doesn't know when that fear will disappear, but says hearing that the state is taking action makes him feel better. The only part of the report he disagrees with is arming teachers. "We don't arm bank tellers, why would we arm teachers? We have enough trouble recruiting highly qualified teachers and I think it sends a bad message," Rabin added.

Countryside High School Senior Kayla Dixon agrees that the report is a good start. "I think it's baby steps. I really hope they take the report and do something positive with it.” Dixon helped to start the Pinellas County "We the Students" group in wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. “I don’t feel as safe as I used to before the shootings," Dixon said with a sigh. "That's genuinely because I know the culture hasn’t changed around the issues and why the shootings happen.”