Florida bill aimed at improving school security is necessary next step, experts say

Florida bill aimed at improving school security

This article originally appeared in ABC Action News. To view the original article, click here.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida lawmakers and school safety advocates say House Bill 1421 is the necessary next step in strengthening school security through prevention strategies and planning.

“We want your students to be safe,” said Frank Kitzerow, retired chief of police and school safety expert.

The bill extends the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Commission to 2026. It was set to end in 2023.

The commission oversees the implantation of school safety measures and investigates system failures regarding school shootings while developing recommendations for improvements.

“Fundamentally school districts want to do the things that need to be done to keep their children safe, their students safe,” said Kitzerow.

This bill will also work to improve mental health actions in schools and requires that school safety officers and certain employees complete mental health intervention training.

School districts will have to adopt policies to establish threat assessment teams at each school to intervene if anyone shows behavior that poses a threat to school safety.

“We want your students to be safe and we want you and them to feel safe,” said Kitzerow.

School security experts say one of the most significant things House Bill 1421 does is require school districts and law enforcement agencies to work together ahead of time to have a reunification plan in place for students and their families in case of a crisis.

“The trick is, or the challenge is to get everyone to work together ahead of time. So instead of having three plans, you have one plan that everybody works off of,” said Kitzerow.

“In passing Alyssa’s Law in 2020 and implementing it in 2021, Florida equipped school districts with important panic alert systems that solved that aspect of emergency management. [House Bill] 1421 brings reunification to the table which is the perfect complement for the panic alert systems mandated by Alyssa’s Law,” said Gray Hall, CEO of Raptor Technologies.

Experts say the reunification process is very complex, potentially dealing with thousands of students and their parents. Having this nailed down is crucial.

“You cannot be victimized by human trafficking, parental abduction, child abduction, because there are folks out there that will try to exploit the catastrophic event that you’re dealing with,” said Kitzerow.

The bill is awaiting Governor Ron DeSantis’s signature to become law.