Florida Gov. DeSantis signs school safety bill into law

(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed another school safety bill into law.

It expands legislative action he and the legislature have taken since 2019 “to implement the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, while also making record investments in mental health and school safety,” he said.

It comes after he and the legislature allocated a record $140 million in the budget to mental health programs and $210 million for school safety, including school hardening grants and youth mental health awareness and assistance training.

“Every child needs a safe and secure learning environment,” DeSantis said when signing the bill.

The new law extends the sunset of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission and authorizes the state education commissioner to enforce school safety and security compliance.

“Extending the Commission’s work and requiring mental health and de-escalation training for safe-school officers will make a major difference in mitigating the risk of a future tragedy,” State Board of Education member Ryan Petty said.

Notably, the law authorizes safe school officers to make arrests on charter school property and requires all safe school officers to complete crisis intervention and training to improve knowledge and skills for response and to de-escalate incidents on school premises.

It also requires law enforcement officers to be present and involved in active assailant emergency drills, requires school boards to adopt family reunification plans in the event of an evacuation, and requires school districts to annually certify that at least 80% of school personnel have received mandatory youth mental health awareness training.

Since 2019, the governor and legislature have increased funding for school safety and mental health issues.

In 2019, a new law implemented the school safety recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. DeSantis also issued an executive order requiring the Department of Education to communicate best practices for school safety to all school districts.

In the fiscal 2019-2020 budget, $317 million was allocated for school safety and mental health funding. This included $180 million for the Safe Schools component of the Florida Education Finance Program, more than $80 million for mental health assistance, and $50 million for school hardening grants to improve school campus security.

In 2020, DeSantis signed Alyssa’s Law, which requires the state Department of Education to work with public schools to implement a panic alert system to ensure real-time coordination between first responders. The fiscal 2020-2021 budget allocated more money for school safety and mental health funding, totaling $342 million.

In 2021, the governor signed another bill into law, SB 590, requiring a range of additional school safety measures, including requiring administrators to gather and report data to the state on involuntary examinations of students, requiring school safety officers to receive mental health training and schools to provide timely notification of threats, unlawful acts and significant emergencies.

The fiscal 2022 budget allocated even more money for school safety and mental health funding of $368 million, including $6.5 million for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to train teachers and staff for emergencies.