As devastating as the latest string of mass shootings in our country have been, including the senseless murder of 19 elementary students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, states like Florida are predictably turning to school hardening tactics that over the years have done little to prevent these tragedies.
Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1421, a bill that requires school districts to partner with law enforcement agencies to assign at least one armed officer to each school, including charter schools. Among other provisions, the bill extends the term of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School Public Safety Commission by three years and gives the commission – created after the 2018 massacre of 17 people in Parkland, Florida – new authority to monitor implementation of “school safety legislation.”
These mass shootings do not get any easier. But with each one, fear sets in, and our hearts are completely shattered. Unfortunately, the response from the Florida Legislature and DeSantis has only deepened our pain and put more lives at risk.
The commission is known for imprudent recommendations that disregard the very students who survived the MSD tragedy and ignore evidence-based strategies and concerns about how excessive surveillance and police presence inside schools endanger Black and Brown students, as well as students with disabilities. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity and needed expertise on the commission reflects these policies.
We are urging lawmakers and the governor to take seriously the threat of gun violence by focusing on efforts that will make schools truly safe for all students and school personnel. These measures include commonsense gun safety laws, broad mental health support services for students, adequate resources for teachers, restorative justice practices and trauma-informed training.
The time is now to act.
A make-shift memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2019 honors the one-year anniversary since 14 students and three staff members were killed during a mass shooting. (Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX/AP Images)