Overview Of Early Recommendations From State Commission Investigating Parkland Shooting

Dec 12, 2018

This post was updated with additional information at 5:20 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13.

The statewide commission investigating the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting released a draft of its long-awaited recommendations for school safety on Wednesday.

The 16-chapter draft report includes overhauling how schools secure individual classrooms and campus grounds. 

It would require schools to have detailed active assailant policies and standards for locking doors from the inside. Classrooms would be required to have "hard corners" where students cannot be seen by people looking in.

The report also states that schools should face consequences from the state if they don't comply.

"This culture has to change," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. He's also the commission chair. "If we haven't learned anything else from Parkland we need to know that bad things will happen anywhere and no school is exempt." 

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd criticized educators as a whole for not following The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act correctly, and accused them of fighting against the commission's investigation. The act was passed during the last legislative session and included some immediate school security changes, including mandating active-shooter training for all elementary, middle and high school students starting in August 2019. The bill also created the Public Safety Commission to investigate what happened leading up to and on Feb. 14. 

"The ones that opposed us the most were the educators," Judd said. "There have to be mandates, and there has to be severe consequences for failure to implement the guidelines to keep our children safe...otherwise this becomes just another report."

Broward State Sen. Lauren Book and Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina in the Stoneman Douglas shooting, echoed the need for "prescriptive," or highly detailed, enforcement measures. Those include asking the Florida Legislature for help mandating some of the recommendations in the future. 

Commissioners were given the 400-page PDF on Sunday prior to the two-day meeting in Tallahassee, where they are discussing each of the recommendations before the report is finalized. 

"What's here is a draft," Gualtieri said. "It is far from a final product."

A complete version of the report is due to the governor's office on Jan. 1.

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Many of the report's findings include information from a presentation during last month's meeting, which detailed law enforcement and school staff responses to the shooting, including the actions of former Broward Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson.

"Peterson was in a position to engage Cruz and mitigate further harm to others and he willfully decided not to do so," the report reads. 

As a result, the commission is looking to recommend that school resource officers be highly supervised and have access in the future to students' educational and disciplinary records.

Read More: Commission Investigating Parkland Shooter To Lawmakers: Arm Teachers

Commission member Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex in the February shooting, said the first draft is a comprehensive look at the shooting and what can be done next. However, he was frustrated that the commission did not make any recommendations concerning gun control.

"Our goal here today is to stop the killing before it starts," he said. 

The report also recommends how schools and law enforcement can get real-time access to surveillance camera systems. 

During the November meeting, commissioners learned that surveillance video was delayed by 26 minutes. Confusion about the camera system hindered law enforcement and medical response. 

To make sure schools across Florida are consistently implementing school safety upgrades, the commission is fine-tuning a recommendation that the Florida legislature create a council similar to the one Connecticut created after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

"The legislature should also consider creating a permanent body such as the Connecticut School Safety Infrastructure Council to oversee physical site security of schools," the report states. 

All of the commission's security recommendations will be made in tiers:

Level 1 recommendations require little to no cost, and can be implemented immediately, such as locked door policies.  Level 2 recommendations will require some funding, and "moderate implementation plans."

The tiers go all the way through Level 4 recommendations, which will require significant funding and multi-year implementation.   

A couple of appendices of the draft report are confidential and only available to members of the commission because they contain mental health records about confessed-shooter Nikolas Cruz that are not included in the public report. 

Continuing their discussions about recommendations Thursday, commissioners decided that they will ask for a Florida Workgroup to be formed, to look at any neccessary changes to federal Exceptional Student Education, or ESE, and then work with Florida members of congress to implement them. 

NEXT STEPS

The commission's goal this week was to approve all findings and recommendations for a final version of the report. Commissioners did not take a vote on that by the meeting's end and plan to have a phone meeting between Christmas and the New Year. The report will be sent to an editor the week of Christmas.

After the November meeting, Gualtieri asked both Broward Schools' Superintendent Robert Runcie and Broward Sheriff Scott Israel to complete separate internal investigations, which are expected to take several months. Runcie responded with a letter detailing upcoming district policy changes. Both Runcie and Israel will be asked again in 2019 to discuss the results of those investigations.

Once the intial report is released, the commission's work is not done. Though members are not planning to meet in January, Gualtieri asked commissioners to submit ideas for future topics they would like to see covered later in the New Year.

Correction: An earlier version of the story stated that three appendices to the report contained private information. With new information from the commission, there are only two private appendices to the report. We regret the error.

 

Below is the draft copy of the Commission's first report: