PARKLAND, Fla. – After the Parkland shooting a year ago, significant security upgrades were put in place at schools across the country.
It was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history. The tragic rampage killed 17 people, and since then, it sparked the need to strengthen school safety in Florida.
Fox 4 sat down with school leaders and security experts in Southwest Florida to get answers on what they are doing to better protect kids at school.
SERIES OF APPARENT SECURITY FAILURES AT PARKLAND
There were a series of apparent security failures on the day of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
A report from the public safety commission highlights several security missteps:
- Doors were left unlocked and unstaffed at the school that allowed 19-year-old suspect Nicolas Cruz to access the campus.
- There was no P.A. system inside most of the building where the shooting occurred to warn students and staff on what was happening.
- The lack of training and drills left kids and teachers vulnerable and confused on what to do when the fire alarm went off.
- Exterior video cameras were on a 20-minute delay which caused chaos for responding police. It made them think they were seeing everything in real time, when they actually weren’t.
- Armed student resource officer, Scot Peterson, waited outside instead of trying to stop the gunman from spraying bullets.
SCHOOL SECURITY UPGRADES IN FLORIDA
Since Parkland, a lot has been done in Florida schools to make sure those mistakes don’t repeat in the future.
Last year, then-Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The law is there to bolster school safety by funding campus security upgrades and outlining new requirements.
“The big enhancement since Parkland is now we have a youth relations deputy on every campus, every day, all day” said Tim Kutz, director of operations at Collier County schools.
The law requires a School Resource Officer on each campus.
They are just not law enforcement, they are also educators. “They are mentors, teachers and they are friends in so many instances,” said Mike Riley, Charlotte County Schools spokesperson. “A child’s first encounter with law enforcement is a school resource officer.”
The law also requires every SRO have to undergo crisis intervention training. “It’s training officers to recognize problem behavior and to identify them early on and intervene in those kinds of situations,” said Rick Parfitt, the Lee County schools’ director of safety and security.
Upgrades also include single point entry. “The single point of entry is the goal we have had for years and we’ve done it at all of our schools,” said Kutz. “By putting up a 6-foot fence, it requires everyone to enter the campus through the main entrance.”
At the main entrance at every school, there’s a video surveillance system. All parents and visitors will ring a doorbell, be acknowledged and will have to show some form of identification. Once the visitor is allowed inside the school, their I.D. will be scanned.
“It checks their license to see whether they are a sexual predator or offender,” said Riley. “It also check if there is an arrest warrant for them or been charged with any violent crime.”
“It just adds another layer of protection to the school,” said Parfitt.
Parkland community reflects on tragic shooting that took the lives of 3 staff members and 14 young students. pic.twitter.com/3lzOE7RD5s
— Jillian Hartmann (@JHartmann_TV) February 14, 2019
Parfitt said classroom doors now have special security locks. “It allows the teacher to lock the classroom from the inside instead of having to go out into the hall,” said Parfitt. “Those are some of the target hardening things we are doing”
Requirements also include monthly active shooter drills for both students and staff.
“We want to train everyone working or volunteering on campus on what to do in the event of an emergency,” said Kutz.
Another huge upgrade school districts are working on right now is access control doors. To open any door on campus, students and staff would be required to scan their I.D. card.
“Our job is to look at everything that’s out there and decide what can we do to enhance the security everyday,” said Kutz. “We live in a changing world that requires us to continues to modifications.”
Modifications also include enhanced computer software. Charlotte and Lee County schools have a system that alerts the right people if a child at school is online and researching something they are not supposed to.
“When a social media post makes a reference to a bomb of a gun in a school, it becomes very important,” said Parfitt.
Law enforcement and school leaders take these threats very seriously. It can lead to an arrest, suspension or even expulsion.
Law enforcement and school leaders say it may be impossible to keep kids 100% safe but they will continue to work together to improve school security to protect every child.
“It is a team approach. We can’t rely on just saying that this is a law enforcement problem, this is a school problem but it’s a community concern,” said Parfitt.
Security experts and school leaders across the state will meet this month to discuss more ways they can better protect kids.
— Jillian Hartmann (@JHartmann_TV) February 14, 2019