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State audit finds safety shortcomings in Broward schools

The front door of Dillard High School.
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward County Public Schools failed to timely report some incidents with school resource officers as required by state law, according to a recent report by Florida's auditor general.

A report released this week by state auditors has found multiple violations of safety protocols in Broward County Public Schools. The findings show complying with school security standards remains a challenge for the district, where four years ago a shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In January of 2021, a Broward school resource officer was arrested for soliciting a minor for sex. Ten days later, the Coral Springs Police Department dismissed the man from his position at the school.

Under state law, the school district is required to report SRO misconduct like this to the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools immediately, and no later than 72 hours after the fact. It took the district 56 days, according to the report by the state auditor general.

The district also failed to promptly notify the state after an SRO discharged their gun, as required by state law. In that instance, it took Broward County Public Schools 48 days to formally report the incident to the state and 55 days to alert the county sheriff’s office, according to the report.

The districts’ contracts “did not require the law enforcement agencies to promptly inform the District when an agency dismissed an SRO for misconduct, otherwise disciplined an SRO, or when an SRO discharged his or her firearm in exercise of SRO duties other than for training purposes,” the report reads in part.

“Such information is essential for the District to comply with the statutory requirement to immediately notify the FDOE Office of Safe Schools and the Sheriff’s Office about such incidents.”

The review says the district also hasn't adequately ensured that SROs have completed mandatory mental health crisis intervention training.

In a letter included in the auditor’s report, BCPS Superintendent Vickie Cartwright acknowledged the findings and said the district has already made changes to address the violations.

“As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, the District will adjust its existing processes based on the findings,” reads a statement from BCPS to WLRN. “Contractual changes to School Resource Officers’ agreements were already made in October 2021, to address required information from the District’s law enforcement partners to document compliance.”

“BCPS continues to evaluate safety and security measures Districtwide and will take any actions deemed necessary to provide safer and more secure learning environments,” the statement continued.

The report comes the same week the district started using handheld metal detectors to search students. It's an effort to address a recent increase in weapons on campus. The federal government also announced a multimillion-dollar settlement this week of 40 civil lawsuits brought by the families of victims of the Parkland shooting.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story included a file photo of a Broward County public school, Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. The use of the photo, paired with the headline "State audit finds safety shortcomings in Broward schools," created a misleading suggestion that Dillard was cited in the safety audit. It was not. The photo has been replaced.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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