LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Students in Southwest Florida are heading back to school on Wednesday morning. While they're getting ready to hit the books, behind the scenes, the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Lee County School District have been working on school safety.
It's an issue that's been put under a microscope even more after the deadly Uvalde school shooting in Texas.
"Students should never have to worry about their school safety," said Dr. Christopher Bernier, Lee County School District's superintendent. "Parents should also never have to worry about their child’s safety while they’re in our buildings, on our fields, and on our buses."
The school district is making sure all safety measures are being followed on their end.
"Our staff has worked diligently to secure perimeters, enhance single ports of entry, participate in training our emergency alert system, Centegix, and make sure that the safety protocols are followed each and every day," Bernier explained.
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Sheriff Carmine Marceno said their school resource officers have been training non-stop throughout the summer by going through active shooter drills.
"We recently purchased virtual reality goggles where we can import the layout of any school and train for any situation," he explained. "At a click of a button, our detectives and our analysts at the real-time intelligence center have access to any school camera system."
New laws are also solidifying what some school districts are already doing.
In June 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1421. There are several measures under the law:
- Extends the sunset of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission
- Authorizes the Commissioner of Education to enforce, rather than just oversee, school safety and security compliance
- Authorizes safe school officers to make arrests on charter school property;
- Requires all safe school officers to complete crisis intervention and training to improve knowledge and skills for response and de-escalate incidents on school premises
- Requires law enforcement officers to be present and involved in active assailant emergency drills
- Requires school boards to adopt family reunification plans in the event of an evacuation
- Requires that school districts must annually certify that at least 80 percent of school personnel have received mandatory youth mental health awareness training.
"We are going to throw every resource possible into a situation and handle it," Marceno said.
A situation that can happen quickly, but it's something the Sheriff's Office and the school district want to avoid.
"See it, say it, make the call. It works," Marceno said. "Parents and guardians most importantly, please talk to your children."
If you do see or hear of a threat, parent or not, you can report it right from your phone. The app is called Fortify FL. Your tip will automatically go straight to the local school district, police, and state officials.