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Hear Directly from Rep. Fred Hawkins About Florida’s Latest School Safety Bill
No one necessarily wants to think about all the tragic situations that can unfold in our nation’s schools but being prepared is essential for school safety. Florida House Bill 1421 helps ensure districts and charter schools proactively address school safety needs, including those around school safety drills and family reunification.
Representative Fred Hawkins recently discussed Florida HB 1421 on a webinar hosted by The Southern Group. Raptor is pleased to have sponsored and participated in the webinar. You can listen to the full conversation here.
Why is Florida HB 1421 So Important to School Safety?
When asked about the timing of Florida House Bill 1421, Rep. Hawkins emphasized the reality we live in today. Violence and student mental health are top concerns for schools across the nation as they continue to recognize just how much COVID-19 has affected their communities.
Florida also experienced tragedy firsthand. In 2018, a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Florida HB 1421 stems from SB 7026, more commonly known as the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (Act).
Florida hasn’t passed a school safety bill in the past two years. “Knowing what we know now and what [Florida] started in 2018, we’re building upon that…It was just time to bring this forward,” Rep. Hawkins said.
What is Florida HB 1421 Requiring for School Reunification Plans?
“Reunification was such a big heartbreak,” Rep. Hawkins recalled of the 2018 school shooting. “It was so hard for [guardians] to deal with sitting in a room for hours and hours…when their children or their loved ones weren’t heard from…We have to do better.”
Rep. Hawkins spoke about the role of technology, and how it’s critical schools, first responders, and incident commanders can quickly access student and staff information. This information should include their attendance for the day, if they’re accounted for in the emergency and where, and if they’re injured.
HB 1421 requires the Florida Office of Safe Schools (OSS) to create a model family reunification plan and annually confirm that each district has adopted a plan. Each district’s reunification plan must:
- Leverage information systems, such as student rosters and the day’s attendance record, that can help streamline the entire reunification process
- Be developed in coordination with local law enforcement agencies and local governments
- Be reviewed annually and revised as needed
What are the Updates to School Safety Drills in Florida HB 1421?
One of the biggest parts of school safety, Rep. Hawkins said, is being prepared. Through school safety drills, “we’re going to prepare every school district in case [a shooting] happens,” Rep. Hawkins explained. Florida HB 1421 has multiple drill requirements.
Active assailant drills must be age and developmentally appropriate. Schools must also directly involve the law enforcement agencies as determined necessary by the sheriff and district school safety specialist. The Board of Education is responsible for setting the timing and frequency of emergency drills and must adopt rules governing emergency drills by August 1, 2023. These rules must require schools to conduct emergency drills at least once per year.
How Does Florida HB 1421 Incorporate the Latest School Safety Practices?
“We looked at how we can use technology to make [school safety] better and how we can take the latest law enforcement techniques and make things better,” Rep. Hawkins began as he noted that HB 1421 is “something that we’re going to continue to build upon.”
Considering mental health, Rep. Hawking acknowledged how staff play an important role in recognizing students in distress. “We have to make sure people are trained to see signs… You know one person that may be getting bullied or one person that has something going on in their home.” These low-level concerns have the potential to lead to severe consequences if they go unaddressed.
How Can Schools Implement Needed Changes for HB 1421 Compliance?
The right technology can streamline the entire reunification process while increasing safety for all. Raptor Reunification pulls data directly from the school’s student information system (SIS) and helps coordinate student and staff status and location throughout the emergency. Raptor also confirms guardianship so schools can confidently release students to authorized guardians. The MSD Commission described Seminole County Public Schools as a model district for other Florida schools to emulate—partially due to their use of Raptor Reunification in their reunification plan.
Raptor Drill Manager enables schools to schedule drills and track compliance, quickly verify each building’s drill activity, and analyze reports to see what is working and where they need to improve performance.
To learn more about Raptor and how we can help you comply, contact us today to schedule a personalized demo.
Whitepaper – Florida HB 1421, Summary for Schools
How to Comply with Updated Drill, Reunification, and Other School Safety Requirements.