Sarasota County Schools News

Sarasota County Schools Makes School Safety Enhancements Since Parkland

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Sergeant Kim and Students at Toledo Blade

February 13, 2019 – Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where seventeen were killed, seventeen more were injured and the entire state was impacted by the actions of one person. Over the last twelve months, Sarasota County Schools has made vast enhancements to its school security to further ensure the safety and well-being of staff and students while at school. This systemic approach takes a 360-view of safety, including the hardening of schools, the development of a school-based police department and additional mental and behavioral health services for students in need.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue for the families whose lives have been impacted by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” noted Todd Bowden, superintendent, Sarasota County Schools. “We worked hard this year, and with the support of the School Board, made improvements throughout the school district to ensure the safety of our students and staff each day. I am confident in the men and women who make up the Sarasota County Schools Police Department and our local law enforcement partners who support our school leaders during times of need. I am also thankful for local businesses who have helped make our school campuses more secure, and our community partners who have helped the district fulfill its vision for enhanced mental and behavioral health services and support. Together, our community is making a difference, and we will continue to keep the safety and well-being of our students our top priority.”

The following provides a glance at the improvements made in school safety and security since Parkland:

-  In May 2018, the Sarasota County School Board approved the adoption of a school-based police force – the Sarasota County Schools Police Department (SCSPD) – to partner with local law enforcement on an SRO program in traditional public schools across the district. The men and women who are a part of the SCSPD are FDLE certified. All the officers are highly trained, and most have extensive experience in law enforcement, which ensures compliance with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

-  The school district has hired a Chief of Police, three Sergeants, two Regional Response Officers and 26 SROs to serve elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and one alternative school for the 2018-19 school year. All other schools – mostly middle and high schools – are serviced by the Sheriff’s Office and local police departments who collaborate with the SCSPD on their SRO and SRD programs.

-  The school district has hired analysts, specialists and administrative staff to assist with the 24/7 safety operations and communications, fingerprinting, background checks and other safety tactics needed to support the school safety plan.

-  More than $23 million has been allocated for school hardening, which includes new perimeter fencing, single-point-entry access to all schools, new front office design that includes bullet-resistant glass and metal frameworks, new locks and many more security cameras. In addition, the school district is installing new emergency alert systems in all traditional public schools over the coming year.

-  The school district is collaborating with the city of Sarasota on the closure of School Avenue, which runs through the campus of Sarasota High School. Currently, the road between Hatton and Tami Sola is now closed from 6:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. when school activities are taking place. The district continues to work with the city and neighboring communities on the permanent closure of this section of School Avenue to eliminate public access on campus.

-  In addition to standard safety programs such as fire drills, the school district’s leaders have revised security protocols to emphasize three types of safety emergencies, including lockdown, limited lockdown and evacuations. This replaces the color-coding system of Code Red, Code Orange, etc. A lockdown is a full closure of campus where students and staff seek shelter in school. A limited lockdown closes campus to outside visitors and instruction continues in class. Movement on campus is limited. An evacuation is when a classroom, building or school needs to close, and students are moved from one space to another. The school district has also empowered anyone on campus to call for a lockdown if they witness someone or something suspicious that could do harm.

-  The school district is employing on-going, district-wide lockdown drills to be conducted simultaneously at all schools, as well as random safety drills conducted at individual schools, to ensure students and staff know what to do in case of an emergency.

-  The school district is utilizing the FortifyFL APP to provide students, parents and staff an anonymous way to report suspicious or concerning activity. The district has also emphasized the See Something, Say Something mantra, organized SAVE the Promise clubs (Students Against Violence Everywhere) in our secondary schools and integrated safety intervention and assessment teams at every school through a partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation.

-  The Sarasota County School District already employs school counselors, therapists, home school liaisons, psychologists and social workers and has added 16 new mental health therapists in elementary schools and 6 new mental health therapists at middle schools since the beginning of the school year. These services are fulfilled by outside agencies who have a unique expertise to enhance trauma informed school-based services. 

-  The school district has partnered with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation on The Civility Squad, a cast of characters designed to promote the 10 keys of civility by reminding students to speak kindly, listen, be generous and other positive traits as a preventative program. Monthly workshops are also available for school district teachers, staff and administrators.

-  Sarasota County Schools has partnered with the National Council for Behavioral Health and trained three new instructors as part of the Youth Mental Health First Aid program to enhance our faculty and staff’s ability to provide services to our students.

-  The school district has also partnered with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation on a Crisis Text Line – a free, 24/7 support system for those in crisis. Users can text HERE4U to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to instantly start a text conversation with a trained crisis counselor.

-  In response to concerning messages made by students on social media, Sarasota County Schools has partnered with the Sarasota Film Festival on a student PSA film contest to teach students how to use social and digital media appropriately for the power of good. REEL TALK launched last month, with student film awards to be announced in late March.

 -  New gender diverse guidelines were adopted to provide system-wide direction for all schools to support our LGBTQIA+ students and ensure their safety at school.

 The school district will join Broward County Superintendent, Robert Runcie, and the entire Parkland community in observing a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m. on February 14. We hope everyone will join in to share in this commemoration.


PHOTO:  Sarasota County Schools Police Sergeant, Steve Kim, at Toledo Blade Elementary.



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