Commentary: Parkland-Inspired School Safety Law Could Multiply Student Arrests [Naples News]

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

“It takes a village to raise a child” — and to protect that child. In response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in Parkland this past February, our state Legislature passed a law requiring every school be outfitted with a law-enforcement officer or armed guard. This approach, however, is misguided. In the effort to protect our students from mass shootings, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to raise our children. Increased school policing could lead to increased student arrests for misbehavior better handled by school administrators.

But that doesn’t have to happen — uniform, predictable discipline policies, robust pre-arrest diversion programs and clear roles of law enforcement in our village can mitigate this very real risk.

School administrators are also 2.5 times as likely to refer students with disabilities to law enforcement, an unfortunate side effect of the lack of mental-health resources. The district expects guidance counselors to serve more than twice the recommended number of students, and in 2016-2017 there were 114 resource and law-enforcement officers serving our schools and 53 registered school nurses.

Without clear roles for law enforcement, these trends will only be exacerbated with the new requirement for an officer at every school. These officers are in our schools in the name of safety — not discipline. Our schools are not prisons, and our students should not be treated as suspects. A revamped school-justice partnership outlining a security focus for the resource officers is necessary.


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