Key takeaways from Broward League of Cities task force on school safety

Recommendations include hardening schools, hiring more SROs


PARKLAND, Fla. – The Broward League of Cities organized a school and community public safety task force in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland.

Comprised of broad representation from community stakeholders, the group was tasked with evaluating and preparing consensus recommendations intended to enhance school and community safety. The task force analyzed policy, legislation and operational opportunities and developed advocacy plans at the local, state and federal government levels.

What they came up with was a 93-page report with more than 100 recommendations.

Here are the key takeaways from the report:

No. 1. Safety of schools base upon infrastructure policies and procedures:
The task force recommendations focused significantly on hardening schools -- making them better prepared to prevent atrocities. They break down a new camera surveillance program, ensuring single-point of entry, and have people designated to specific jobs during an emergency (such as a student-parent reunion coordinator, first aid coordinator, etc.).

No. 2. School resource officer programs:
The task force recognized that, despite it being required by the new Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, 35 schools in Broward County have no dedicated school resource officer, 26 of them being elementary schools. They pointed out discrepancies in funding and the difficulties in hiring SROs, not only because of money, but because of a lack of law enforcement officers. They recommended a new, special taxing district to provide a stable funding source.

No. 3. Discipline and mental health processes and procedures:
The task force reviewed the school district's threat assessment procedures and the PROMISE program. They found that current policies needed extra enforcement, including repercussions for those who don't follow them. They also looked into recidivism of students in the PROMISE program and determined more data should be collected, including cross-year recidivism.

No. 4. Community-based mental health programs and safety issues:
The task force went through a significant number of community-based programs and tools that already exist, but they said are not well understood or known by people who live in Broward County. They sought to clarify and promote those things, including the Baker Act, public access to bleeding control kits and improving the public radio system. 

The task force also identified a number of key principles:

  • There is a constitutional requirement that the State provide adequate provision for safe and secure schools;
  • People over Products: Even with the addition of new products and infrastructure, in the end, people involved in the process must "adhere to" and "be vigilant" in enforcing policies and procedures;
  • In evaluating critical incidents, usually there are many different opportunities for prevention and intervention. The challenge is how do we make sure intervention occurs timely and that layers of protection are woven such that the failure at one point may be caught at another;
  • A number of new laws enacted through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act are welcomed and will have an immediate impact on school and public safety; and,
  • Other provisions of the MSDHSPS Act either did not provide adequate funding to initiate changes by the start of the 2018-2019 school year or are requirements which are difficult or impossible to meet.

About the Author: