Some school districts underreport statistics, MSD Public Safety Commission says

Meeting shifts after news breaks about arrest of Scot Peterson

By Terrell Forney - Reporter

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission met Tuesday in Sunrise and has a full plate on its agenda over the next two days.

The first topic they took up Tuesday morning was how some school districts underreport information to the state about students and crimes.

The commission has met regularly since last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

They were first investigating the failures that led up to the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting and then suggested a series of preventative measures to the state.

Their report was handed in earlier this year, but the commission has been tapped for a total of at least five years, primarily focusing on school safety.

That includes how mental health information is shared between schools, armed guardian policies, school hardening procedures and crucial data that is supposed to be shared with the state Department of Education.

But the panel has learned some districts underreport statistics, which makes that school system more vulnerable.

The commission heard Tuesday from district leaders about a potential fix.

"I think the danger ever of underreporting, especially in discipline, is that you really don't know what is happening at a school. I know in Seminole County I try to put additional resources where they are needed. If the school had underreported their data, I would not think they needed additional resources," Dr. Walt Griffin, of the Seminole County School District, said. "I think that when you look school by school, that the more accurate the data in any circumstance, the better our system and the stronger our system will be."

Another big topic discussed Tuesday was the Broward School District's Promise program, in which the Parkland school shooter was referred.

The panel is calling into question its practices and data compiling and sharing.

"How we share actively information, however, is not a question of intent. It's a question of systemic programming," Broward County Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Dan Gohl said.

"You embarrass yourself when you say the Promise program isn't a diversion program and that was published, and it is a diversion program," MSD Public Safety Commissioner and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

The meeting quickly shifted after news broke that former Stoneman Douglas school resource Deputy Scot Peterson had been arrested on 11 charges in connection with his alleged inaction during the massacre.

Parents who lost their children in the shooting said they were happy with the arrest. Below is some of their reactions:

"For the life of me, I can't explain how anyone can stand behind a pillar for 48 minutes while innocent students and teachers are being slaughtered in a building and then somehow defend himself. This was a long time coming and I'm glad this day's finally here," Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter, Alaina, said.

"He could have done something. He chose to do nothing," Max Schachter, who lost his son, Alex, said. "He chose to go hide behind a concrete pillar for 48 minutes. He's no longer a police officer and he's dirt to me."

"This still hurts so much and I know that whatever accountability comes our way doesn't bring back Luke and Alyssa," Gena Hoyer, who lost her son, Luke, said. 

"He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat," Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter, Alyssa, said. 

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