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State Commission Considers Whether School Resource Officers Should Have Access To Student Records

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission
Caitie Switalski
Commissioners hold a roundtable about school resource officers at schools Thursday morning inside the BB&T Center.

Commissioners investigating the Parkland school shooting said Thursday that law enforcement school resource officers, or SROs, should play a larger role at schools. 

Florida Sen. Lauren Book, who sits on the commission, asked the group to recommend that SROs be given access to students’ educational and disciplinary records. 

“They need to be copied and given those records,” she said. “And I know that may create some issues, but if the SRO - the person who is there to keep everyone safe - isn't aware of those things, then the populous isn't safe.”

The state's public safety commission is meeting for its second day of meetings this month, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. 

On Wednesday the commission watched a surveillance video showing former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School SRO Scot Peterson during the February shooting. He did not enter the building where the shooting was taking place. Commissioners announced they had summoned Peterson to testify at next month's meeting. 

On Thursday the commission discussed standardizing and automizing the threat assessment process for schools across the state. That's the way schools document and keep track of student incidents, including any behavioral issues that could be considered threats.  

Making that process standardized would include creating sanctions for schools who underreport or misreport incidents. It would also make former students’ reports available to the SRO, in case someone could still pose a threat to a particular school after they leave or graduate, like the confessed shooter in the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Nikolas Cruz.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said commissioner Ryan Petty, who his daughter Alaina in the shooting. “The threat assessment teams need to have a complete picture of [a] student’s disciplinary records and other information so they can accurately paint the picture of the threat that [a] student may or may not pose. They’re not getting that now.”

During Wednesday's meetings, commissioners came to the consensus that at least one law enforcement officer should be placed at each middle and high school in the state. There's not enough money, or officers, to place one at each elementary school.

However, the elementary schools could have an armed guardian - or someone who is trained and armed by the state - stationed on campus instead of an officer, the commission said. 

Read More: Stoneman Douglas Commission Debates Law Enforcment Presence At Schools

Whether or not armed guardians should be a part of schools' threat assessment teams is still being debated.

In between now and the next meeting, on Oct. 10 and 11, commissioners will have to rate possible safety measures for schools, including metal detectors, code red trainings and security camera systems on a scale of one to four. 

Level one suggestions are considered affordable and able to be implemented quickly; level four ideas are those that are more expensive and would take a longer period of time to put in place.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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