On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed H.B. 1421, improving Florida school safety. The bill passed the Florida House of Representatives unanimously Feb. 24 and subsequently the Florida Senate on March 3. The bill builds on prior legislative work passed since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
“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.”
“This legislation is a huge leap forward in school safety,” said State 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.”
HB 1421 does the following:
- Extends the sunset of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission;
- Authorizes the Commissioner of Education to enforce, rather than just oversee, school safety and security compliance;
- Authorizes safe school officers to make arrests on charter school property;
- Requires all safe school officers to complete crisis intervention and training to improve knowledge and skills for response and de-escalate incidents on school premises;
- Requires law enforcement officers to be present and involved in active assailant emergency drills;
- Requires school boards to adopt family reunification plans in the event of an evacuation; and
- Requires that school districts must annually certify that at least 80 percent of school personnel have received mandatory youth mental health awareness training.
On Thursday, DeSantis signed the “Freedom First” budget, approving $140 million for mental health and $210 million for school safety, which included school hardening grants and youth mental health awareness and assistance training. Since 2019, DeSantis has prioritized school safety and mental health funding in the school system. He has increased the funding for these initiatives every year in office.