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Florida Senate Committee Prepares To Introduce New Version of School Safety Legislation

The committee removed a measure to allow districts to assign expelled students to pre-arrest diversion programs, but kept requirements for sheriff’s offices and school guardian training.

Two years after the Parkland high school shooting that took the lives of 17 people, the Florida legislature is preparing to pass its third round of legislation regarding school safety.

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee made several changes to SB 7040, the latest senate bill focused on adding enforcement mechanisms to school safety legislation already in place. The most major tweak involved removing a measure to allow districts to assign expelled students to pre-arrest diversion programs, according to the News Service of Florida.

The provision was removed to “alleviate concerns over unintended consequences” that could have kept students who are not eligible for pre-arrest diversion programs from participating in other disciplinary programs, Senate Education Chairman Manny Diaz Jr. said.

The bill still addresses the responsibility of sheriff’s offices to ensure that training of school guardians are only provided to eligible candidates. A statewide grand jury report issued in December found that several school staff members had completed training only to find out that they failed required background checks, therefore wasting the funding put into their training.

Now, sheriff’s offices must complete background checks before beginning the training process. In addition, schools are now required to create and adopt plans to unify students and employees with families after an emergency. The issue earned attention following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where families waited as long as 12 hours to learn if their children or relatives were safe, according to the News Service of Florida.

“I think [the policy] will go a long way if there is ever a situation like this, or any other catastrophic event, so that parents will know where to go and kids will know where to go,” Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat, said during the committee meeting.

If the bill passes, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will also get three new appointments who would begin their work in June. The commission is tasked with evaluating how school districts across the country are implementing school safety policies and areas for improvement.

The House is also prepared to introduce its new school safety legislation for full consideration, according to the News Service of Florida.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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