NewsPinellas County


Florida leaders to launch database giving law enforcement access to student records

Posted at 5:52 PM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-11 06:09:39-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — In just a few weeks, Florida leaders will launch a new database for law enforcement to keep tabs on students as a way to prevent school shootings.

The new database could allow law enforcement to get easy access to school records, mental health reports, social media posts, child welfare reports and any interactions students have had with law enforcement.

It will compile information from dozens of agencies into a single database, which could make it easier for law enforcement to find red flags.

Yet, 33 civil rights, mental health and child welfare groups are worried about how the information will be collected and used. On Tuesday, they blasted off an email to Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to scrap the database over fears about how that information will be collected, who will have access and how it will impact students.

“I think it’s just outrageous,” Ray Arsenault with the Pinellas County ACLU Chapter explained, adding that he thinks the database will be too invasive.

“There is an enormous possibility for misinterpretations and overreactions,” Arsenault added.

Arsenault also worries it will keep students from receiving mental health help because they will be afraid to be added to the database.

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Yet, Dave Couvertier, a retired FBI Special Agent, says the new database is crucial.

“When we are talking about security and safety, you can never have too much information,” Couvertier said.

Couvertier says agencies need to better communicate. The man accused of carrying out the attacks in Parkland, Florida was on the radar of the school district, FBI and mental health agencies, but an investigation revealed that information wasn't shared between them.

“If something like this was in place last year and was already in the works, we could have probably prevented 17 innocent lives from being taken,” he added.

Governor DeSantis says the database will not be used to label students as threats but could provide timely information to law enforcement to intervene before lives are on the line.

State leaders hope to have the database up and running by August 1.

“Ensuring the safety and security of our students will always be our primary concern. The Florida Schools Safety Portal (FSSP) is a tool for threat assessment teams to evaluate the seriousness of individual cases and is not being used to label students as potential threats. This effort to protect our students, teachers and staff was recommended by the MSD Public Safety Commission and established by the Florida Legislature to provide pertinent information only to official entities in order to provide appropriate services to students who may be in need,” a statement from Governor DeSantis reads.