Since MSD tragedy, what has been done in Florida to keep kids safe?

It's been 4 years since the tragedy at Parkland and now with the latest at the Texas elementary school, what's being done to protect kids at school?

MIAMI, Fla. – After a tragedy like the one in Uvalde, Texas, at Robb Elementary School, there is always a discussion about how to prevent such things as a deadly school shooting from happening again.

Local 10 News looked at what has been done in the past four years since the Parkland tragedy in Florida, what we still need to do, and what state lawmakers can do at a national level.

“While you can’t prevent them all, you can prevent some,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County.

As the chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission, Gualtieri said he knows we’ve come a long way in keeping kids safe, but there is still more that can be done.

“I’d say it’s a dramatic change. Change for positive, change for the better. But my caution in saying it that way is I don’t want anybody to think that we’re done.”

Since the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, changes to state law have made it mandatory for all 4,000 schools in Florida to have a single point of entry, an armed security officer, and in-school threat assessment teams.

There are also red flag laws as a tool to get weapons out of the hands of people who may be in crisis.

“Here in Florida, we call them risk protection orders where people have the ability to report concerning behavior, law enforcement analyzes the behavior and goes to a judge and says, ‘Hey judge, here’s why this person shouldn’t be able to possess guns or ammunition.’”

But, Gualtieri said there is one area where Florida needs to improve and that’s in threat assessment, spotting, and seamlessly sharing information on potential danger before it occurs.

“We really, really need a statewide database, we need to connect this, because that threat assessment process and threat management, singularly, hands down, unequivocally, is the greatest opportunity to derail the pathway to violence,” Gualtieri said.

The changes mentioned, including the single point of entry, armed security officers, and red flag laws, all those were all signed into law by then Gov. Rick Scott. We asked him if now as a senator, he’d support similar measures nationally.

He said he thought it should be left for each state to decide.

When we asked State Senator Marco Rubio’s press secretary the same question. She pointed me to a bill that he helped sponsor last year that would have incentivized states to implement red flag laws, but, the bill went nowhere.

Zalman Myer-Smith, director of the Community Secure Organization, which oversees security and training for more than 220 school and religious sites in the state, said America’s problem is politics. “It’s so politicized and each side wants to hold onto it and we’ve really got to focus on not just the outrage . . . Really we want to have our kids go to school, they spend more time at school than they do at home, in a safe environment. You do not want to drop your kid at school every day and worry about, God forbid, them not coming home.”

Myer-Smith, who is an expert on disaster prevention, said that there are ways to lower the risk of the type of attack seen in Texas.

“Instead of talking about it, arguing about it, and twittering about it . . . it’s very simple. Three things: single point of entry, an armed security officer, and trained staff. If we do that now we can mitigate this usually.”


About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.