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Pinellas Sheriff: FL Schools are safe but work is ongoing

Posted at 4:39 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 18:34:31-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The Texas school shooting reopened discussions on school safety across the nation, including here in Florida.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has headed up the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission focused on enhancing school safety statewide for the past four years.

Sheriff Gualtieri said Florida schools are much safer now than they were back in 2018 when a gunman killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Parents should know that a lot of work has been done and a lot of work will continue to be done but overall, the schools in Florida are safe,” Gualtieri said.

Since 2018, millions of dollars have been spent on making sure schools now have a single point of entry, that every campus has an armed person, and campuses are hardened against attacks. Florida schools host monthly mass shooting drills and have mobile panic systems.

Yet, Sheriff Gualtieri said it’s an evolving discussion and schools need to be constantly thinking of ways to enhance safety on campuses.

“We are better today than we were in 2018 and the 4,000 schools in the state of Florida are safe. Are they as safe as we want them to be? No. We need to keep striving for them to be safer,” he explained.

The biggest thing Gualtieri said needs to be enhanced is threat assessments. He would like to see a statewide database where all the reported threats can be funneled to one location. He also wants Florida schools to create better reunification plans which would spell out how parents and students would be connected in the aftermath of an emergency.

In Florida, discussions also continue about enhancing emergency communication to stop a potential shooter faster.

“In the case of Parkland, 34 people were shot or killed in 3 minutes and 51 seconds. That’s too much. It’s too many,” Gualtieri elaborated.

Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a bill that would require law enforcement to take part in school active shooter drills and ensure every school safety officer gets crisis intervention training. It would also require enhanced mental health training for school personnel.

The bill would also extend the length of the school safety commission that Gualtieri heads up, allowing the commission to continue meeting until at least 2026.

Gualtieri said one of the toughest parts of preventing mass shootings is accepting that they can never be 100% prevented.

“The question isn’t if this will happen again, but when and where. Frankly, we will never be at 100%. The day we think we are at 100% we missed the mark because we need to keep striving for improvement. There’s still work to be done and we look forward to continuing to contribute to making the schools and kids in this state safer,” he explained.