Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Wednesday putting in place several administrative steps targeted at making Florida’s schools safer.
He also called for a grand jury to look into school districts’ actions relating to school safety and security measures.
DeSantis’ actions, taken on the day before the anniversary of the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, focused largely on recommendations and findings by the commission convened after that deadly attack.
The executive order included calling for a state review of all school district discipline diversion programs, such as the one in Broward County that came under fire for allowing the school shooter to possibly slip through the cracks. He directed the departments of Education and Juvenile Justice to collaborate in studying the programs and coming up with recommendations for the best types that could be used consistently across the state.
It further reopened the application period for participation in the school guardian program, noting that about $50 million allocated for this system has gone unclaimed. Many districts have said they prefer using law enforcement officers to patrol their campuses instead.
And it authorized the Department of Education to implement a data repository for timely school safety information. Members of the commission have criticized some districts for not meeting deadlines for filing safety plans and other reports that can help officials and the public understand what security efforts are being taken and what might need doing.
“We’re not where we need to be,” DeSantis said, surrounded by law enforcement officers and with his wife and Parkland parent Andrew Pollack by his side. “We want to make sure we’re doing all we can so folks can have safe schools.”
He noted that many proposals from the MSD commission required legislative approval to take effect, and said he would support those initiatives. The state Senate began that effort on Tuesday, with plans for additional bills to follow. Others could be done through his own action.
“I am taking that today,” DeSantis said.
Later in the afternoon, DeSantis held a second news conference in Broward County to announce his call for a grand jury investigation into whether school districts violated state law by failing to properly report incidents of criminal activity on their campuses, and if they acted fraudulently by accepting money for school security measures they did not implement.
The governor asked the Florida Supreme Court to convene the grand jury, and suggested it be based in the circuit serving Broward County.
“What’s truly devastating is that the tragedy in Parkland was avoidable," he said in a news release. "As Governor, I have a moral obligation to protect the children in our state, which is why I have requested a statewide grand jury to investigate school safety practices and failures occurring around the state and to identify measures to improve the safety of our students.”
Note: This post has been updated to include information from a press conference in Broward County.