The Florida Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed to impanel a statewide grand jury to broadly investigate school safety, in an order issued Monday. The decision came after Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a petition on Feb. 13 to ask for the grand jury, which he said should have sweeping powers to oversee both the government failures leading up to last year’s Parkland school shooting as well as any ongoing misdeeds committed by districts that are not following the school safety law passed after the tragedy.
“I am pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This grand jury will work to investigate practices, identify failures and recommend solutions to keep students, teachers and staff safe in our schools.”
Mirroring the language in DeSantis’ request, the court’s order said the grand jury will investigate whether districts’ “refusal or failure” to follow school safety laws put students at risk, whether government officials committed “fraud and deceit” by using public money designated for school safety for other purposes or whether schools intentionally under-report criminal incidents to the state.
The grand jury, which will have jurisdiction over the entire state, will have its presiding judge be in the 17th Circuit — which is Broward County. It will meet for a year and will have the regular powers to issue subpoenas and indictments.
It’s a highly unusual use of a statewide grand jury, but DeSantis has said it will compliment the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which investigated the shooting and made recommendations to the Legislature.
Except the grand jury will have much more legal might to investigate the Broward school district and others statewide. Both the commission and several Parkland families have complained publicly about what they say is continued incompetence in Broward to implement school safety measures even now, more than a year after the shooting.