The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced $4.1 million in safety grants for Central Florida school districts.
The money is part of an $85.3 million infusion from the department to educate and train students, school staff and first responders across the country on how to prevent and react to school violence.
The money is being distributed through a federal grant program established in 2018, after the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. that killed 17 people.
The grant program is but one provision of the Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018, or STOP School Violence Act. The grants serve the following purposes:
• Train school personnel and educate students on preventing student violence against others and themselves.
• Develop and operate anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence, including mobile telephone applications, hotlines, and internet websites.
• Develop and operate school threat assessment and intervention teams that may include coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel, as well as specialized training for school officials in responding to mental health crises.
• Train school officials to intervene when mentally ill individuals threaten school safety.
In the aftermath of the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre in Parkland, the Florida Legislature and former Gov. Rick Scott passed sweeping school safety legislation that, among other provisions, provided more funding for school resource officers.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act requires at least one school resource officer in every elementary and middle school in Florida, and two at every high school. It came with $400 million in funding, $97 million of which went to assist school districts with hiring the resource officers.
In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that expanded Florida’s school guardian program to allow school districts, not law enforcement, to decide if they want to arm teachers and staff.
The Osceola County School Board later that month decided against arming school staff and voted to maintain the school district’s long-standing policy of not allowing weapons on campus except by sworn law enforcement officers.
“We’ve been tremendously fortunate that we have always had great relationships with our local law enforcement and local governments so that we’re all on the same page when it comes to students safety,” said School District Spokeswoman Dana Schafer.
The district’s nearly 8,000 employees are undergoing mental health training on how to talk to students, spot warning signs and provide resources to those who need help.
Since the Parkland shooting, the School District now has a protocol for evaluating students who present a potential threat to themselves or others.
While the School District does not disclose its safety measures to the public, Schafer said, schools have been “hardened” over the past year and a half to include additional fencing, locks and cameras.