School safety grand jury: Florida’s Supreme Court unanimously approves Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call for a statewide grand jury to investigate whether schools are following safety requirements and to “make recommendations about what some of the various school districts could do better.” The grand jury will also investigate whether school districts have accepted state school safety money but failed to make improvements, and whether school officials are underreporting criminal incidents to the state. Eighteen jurors will be drawn from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, and meet for a year. Broward Chief Circuit Judge Jack Tuter will preside. Sun Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. WCTV. WWSB. WFSU. Florida Phoenix. Associated Press.
Alternative discipline: The Broward County School Board will consider making changes in the district’s Promise program, the controversial alternative discipline program that’s been under fire since the deadly shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The state commission that investigated the massacre said the program had no bearing on the shooting, but criticized it as creating a lenient system in which students committing their 10th minor offense could be treated the same as ones committing their first. Among the proposed changes: Students will get fewer chances to repeat the program, and law enforcement will be alerted about the students who enter the program. Sun Sentinel.
Funding fears: While school officials applaud voters for approving 18 ballot measures in August and November to help pay for expenses at schools, some fear that those approvals will embolden the Legislature to cut back funding and lean more on local tax efforts. That could lead to funding disparities based on where students live. “It’s a grave concern,” says Andrea Messina, head of the Florida School Boards Association. “The more we rely on local dollars to provide for educational needs, the greater the disparity could be.” Gradebook.
School board elections: When the Florida Constitution Revision Commission proposed an amendment that would have imposed term limits on school board members, critics said it was unnecessary because of natural turnover. The Florida Supreme Court removed the amendment from the budget to make the argument moot. So how did the elections turn out? Across the state, 290 school board seats were open. Fifty-nine incumbents chose not to seek re-election. Eighteen incumbents who did run lost in the August primary, and seven more lost in the general election. Meanwhile, 73 incumbents and 53 newcomers were elected to boards without drawing opponents. Gradebook.
Security task force: Almost four months after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a Broward County school safety task force recommends 100 ways to improve security for schools. Among them: installing portable metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas this fall and considering them for all schools, putting coverings over windows in doors, keeping classroom doors locked at all times, increasing the height of all outdoor fences, requiring ID badges for all students and staff, and reviewing the Promise program, which was created in 2013 as a way to offer alternatives to arresting students. The committee members also joined local officials in calling on the Legislature to boost funding for school safety. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WSVN. Politico Florida. WLRN.
A cop reflects: Scot Peterson, a Stoneman Douglas resource officer who did not enter the building where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was killing 17 people on Feb. 14, is haunted by that day, at times justifying his decisions (“How can they keep saying I did nothing?”) and at times questioning them (“Why didn’t I know to go in?”). He has considered changing his name or moving out of state, but knows there’s no escaping the infamy. “It’s haunting,” Peterson says. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.” Still, he believes there is little or nothing more he could have done. Washington Post. Parents of students killed at Stoneman Douglas express outrage at Peterson’s comments. “I’m tired of him trying to paint himself as the victim,” says one, Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. “He is not a victim. He created victims. He keeps referring to them as his kids. They are not your kids, Scot Peterson! You let them die!” Miami Herald.