TALLAHASSEE — A statewide grand jury impaneled to investigate school safety found that just weeks before the 2019-2020 school year begins, “numerous” Florida school districts are not in compliance with the post-Parkland school security laws.
That’s according to that grand jury’s first interim report, released by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office on Friday. Moody’s statewide prosecutor, Nick Cox, is overseeing the grand jury proceedings. The report did not provide details or specify which districts were out of compliance.
According to court documents, the grand jury has been meeting for the past month in Broward County. The proceedings are not open to the public.
“We have heard days of testimony from Department of Education, school district and law enforcement officials regarding administrative hurdles, increased costs to their districts, and shortages of the qualified employees necessary to bring these districts into compliance with these important safety measures,” the report reads. “Without discussing the specifics of their explanations, suffice it to say we find this testimony wholly unpersuasive.”
The grand jury also pointed to problems between districts and law enforcement, both of which are tasked with ensuring that every public school campus has armed security, along with many other mandates.
“We have seen and heard troubling evidence of conflicts between school district officials and law enforcement agencies regarding who is ultimately responsible for executing and enforcing SB 7026 and SB 7030," the grand jury wrote, referencing the two laws that were passed in 2018 and 2019, respectively, to add new security and mental health requirements for schools.
“The responsibility of securing our schools is not a matter to be passed from agency to agency, it is not a budget item to be haggled over, and it is not an agenda issue to be whittled down by negotiation into minimum legally-sufficient actions," the report continued. "Now is the time for everyone tasked with implementing and enforcing these laws to take action.”
The grand jury on school safety was impaneled based on a request by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Although it’s located in Broward because of concerns about that district’s response to the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting in Parkland, the grand jury has a broad mandate to investigate districts’ compliance statewide and issue any relevant indictments. Its term expires after one year.