Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed off on a bill that expands the scope of school safety measures permitted within the state. The bill is built upon a series of legislative actions over the past three years in order to implement recommendations made by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, according to the governor’s press office.
The bill, HB 1421, authorizes the Commissioner of Education to enforce school safety and security compliance, whereas previously, the Commissioner had limited oversight of the regulatory maintenance. The signing also grants safe school officers the right to conduct arrests on charter school property, while safe school officers are now required to undergo crisis intervention and training to better be able to de-escalate on-campus situations.
Law enforcement officers will also be required to be present and involved in active assailant emergency drills, which schools are more commonly holding.
“Every child needs a safe and secure learning environment,” said DeSantis. “By signing HB 1421, we continue to build on the many steps we 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.”
Pressure to sign the bill was prevalent following a string of mass shootings across the country. The bill was co-introduced by a bipartisan duo composed of Rep. Fred Hawkins and Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D) before clearing a series of committees and receiving unanimous approval via a floor vote.
Across the bicameral assortment of state lawmakers, DeSantis’ signing received widespread praise.
“Thank you Gov. DeSantis for signing crucial School Safety legislation into law. I’m so proud of the unanimous, bipartisan support for HB1421. In the wake of so much tragedy, this bill has even more renewed importance as we work to ensure the protection of our families,” said Sen. Janet Cruz. “HB 1421 refines the school safety measures we enacted in the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland in 2018. Students should be able to go to school every day without worrying about whether someone will commit an act of mass violence.”
In 2021, DeSantis signed SB 590 which required school safety officers to receive mental health training and required schools to give timely notification of threats, unlawful acts, and significant emergencies. In Fiscal Year 2021-2022, the Governor signed $368 million in the budget for school safety and mental health funding, including $120 million for the Mental Health Assistance Allocation, an increase of $20 million over the previous year, $180 million maintained for the Safe Schools component of the Florida Education Finance Program, and $6.5 million for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to train teachers and staff for emergencies.
“This legislation is a huge leap forward in school safety,” said Florida Board of Education Member Ryan Petty. “I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his bold leadership on this most fundamental issue. Nothing is more important than providing safe and secure learning environments for our children and educators. 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.”