ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says there’s no excuse for school districts that still aren’t in compliance with the safety measures mandated under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
“This was put into effect on March 9th of 2018,” said Gualtieri on Monday. “We’re not talking about days, weeks or a few months, we’re talking about a year-and-a-half later.”
Late on Friday, a statewide grand jury on school safety released a scathing report criticizing Florida school districts for not complying with the law, prompting a strongly-worded statement from state Attorney General Ashley Moody.
“Let me be very clear,” said Moody in the release. “Elected officials in school districts blatantly and irresponsibly shirking these extremely important public safety measures, need to take steps immediately to comply with the law before the school year begins and we put our children in your trust and care.”
“I wish I could say I’m surprised and I’m not,” Gualtieri said. “We are making some progress but not enough progress, and there’s not enough of a sense of urgency on the part of some of these districts. They just need to get it done, school goes back in August, it’s been almost a year-and-a-half now and the law is the law.”
“The complacency is what bothers me the most,” he added. “And I think the complacency is caused by people that have this mindset and this attitude, erroneously, that it can’t happen here or it won’t happen to me. What people need to remember is that two days before this incident, the city of Parkland was named by the Chamber of Commerce as the safest city in the state of Florida. It can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace at the hands of anybody and people need to realize that these legal requirements are there for a reason: because they will make their kids safer, because they will make their schools safer.”
Gualtieri also said the argument that the state didn’t provide enough funding to properly implement all the mandates in the law doesn’t hold water.
“The state provided plenty of funding,” he said. “They [school districts] don’t like the options that the state provided the funding for. So, when people are running around saying this is an unfunded mandate from the state, that’s a false narrative, that is not true. It is funded, especially as it relates to the Guardian program and the requirement of a safe school officer, they just don’t like the options that the state funded, so they call it an unfunded mandate because what they want they didn’t provide money for.”
Gualtieri sits on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which is scheduled to reconvene Aug. 14.
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