Report highlights alternative, evidence-based strategies to make schools safer
FLORIDA – The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (MSD Commission) is made up of a group of political appointees who lack the expertise and diversity to competently fulfill its mission, and as a result has proposed numerous school safety measures that put Florida schoolchildren at risk, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The report – Safe for Whom? How the MSD Commission is Putting Florida’s Children in Danger – provides a critical analysis of the Commission’s composition, process and recommendations so far.
“The recommendations put forth by the MSD Commission make students, educators, and families less safe, not more,” said Bacardi Jackson, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “Our report highlights evidenced-based approaches, and a process informed by all stakeholders, to ensure real safety for all students.”
The MSD Commission was established in 2018 by former Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and to recommend changes to school safety policies.
In its initial report, released in January 2019, the MSD Commission recommendations focused largely on reactive measures that it claims, without evidence, will mitigate harm from future school shootings, the SPLC report notes. They included arming SROs with patrol rifles and ballistic vests and amending federal privacy laws for sharing sensitive student information. Several measures were already passed into law by the Florida Legislature under SB 7030, including a measure that has been interpreted by School Districts to allow the arming of civilians with no law enforcement experience, including classroom teachers, on school campuses.
The MSD Commission’s recommendations threaten the safety of all students, but particularly students of color and students with disabilities, who are already disproportionately viewed as threats and more harshly disciplined than their peers who engage in the same behaviors.
“Florida’s students urgently need policies designed to create real school safety,” the report states. “But that is not what the Commission recommended – and it is not what the governor signed into law. The failure to enact commonsense, effective changes that keep children of all backgrounds safe is a disservice to Florida’s children and places their lives in imminent danger.”
The report notes that even though the Commission has been meeting since April 2018, it has yet to invite substantive input from current educators, students and families who have been negatively affected by the school-to-prison pipeline, or youth-led organizations working to dismantle the pipeline. It failed to engage any students or organizations working on school safety in the state leading up to the Commission’s initial report.
The Commission continues to meet and develop additional recommendations, and is set to meet again on October 15-16, in Orlando, FL. A copy of the SPLC report can be viewed at: https://www.splcenter.org/20191010/safe-whom-how-msd-commission-putting-floridas-children-danger.
The report includes recommendations for Florida school districts, the legislature, the Florida Department of Education, and the MSD Commission.