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Bill setting deadline for school mental health assistance training heads to Florida governor

In March, 10 Investigates exposed how fewer than half of Tampa Bay-area school employees had gotten legally-required training to help identify troubled students.
Credit: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
FILE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference, Feb. 1, 2022, in Miami.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill that would set a deadline for training required in the wake of the Parkland school shooting is now headed to the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

That section of the School Safety bill was introduced because of a story from 10 Investigates in March. 

Our investigation exposed that fewer than half the employees at schools in the Tampa Bay area have gotten training, required by law, that could help them identify troubled students.

In March 2018, Florida lawmakers passed new school safety requirements in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. 

That law included a section requiring all school employees to get youth mental health awareness and assistance training. 

The training is designed to teach school employees how to identify the signs of emotional disturbance, mental illness, and substance abuse, then how to engage with that student and connect them to the help they need. 

But the law requiring that training didn’t include a deadline for school employees to get that training.

After seeing what 10 Investigates found, Florida Senate Education Committee Chair Joe Gruters, a Republican who represents parts of Sarasota County and Charlotte County in District 23, added an amendment to his School Safety bill that adds a deadline. 

That section of the bill would require every school district in the state to notify the Florida Department of Education that at least 80 percent of school employees have gotten the mental health training by July 1, 2023 – and every year after that. 

“I’m glad you guys were able to show us exactly what was going on, because sometimes you pass laws and you expect the districts to follow it. But sometimes they don’t,” Sen. Gruters told 10 Investigates in March. “I just want to say thank you for bringing this to our attention. Without this investigation, we wouldn’t be aware of the noncompliance that’s happening in our school districts.” 

The state legislature voted to approve the School Safety bill in March. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the day after a gunman killed 19 students and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Florida lawmakers sent the bill to Gov. DeSantis for his signature.  

A spokesperson for the governor told 10 Investigates “he will review it in its final form and make a decision, keeping in mind the best interests of Floridians.”

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