Leon County Schools makes an effort to better safety and security after Stoneman Douglas massacre

The Leon County School Board discusses ways to prevent safety and security following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Photo credit: Brea Hollingsworth


Leon County Schools held their bi-weekly school board meeting on Tuesday night that included an extensive topic on safety and security in schools following the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida.

School board leaders discussed how Leon County Schools can learn from previous situations in the case of a similar incident happening closer to home.

“There needs to be a better job on what we do when we get school threats,” said John Hunkiar, the Chief of Safety and Security at Leon County Schools.

Hunkiar says Leon County Schools is working with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office to make site visits to every school using a “checklist” relating to security.

School board members also discussed solutions for better protection for students. This included having active shooter training in schools, drills and exercises, and a better way to communicate to parents and students using message alerts on cell phones.  

Hunkiar also said they are working with automatic locks that lock all doors in schools with the click of a button, which is one of the topics on their immediate list if the Florida Legislature decides to pass a bill.

On Tuesday, the Florida Legislature decided to move forward with plans to allow teachers to carry guns—a topic that Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he’s not exactly on board with.

“If you’re going to carry a weapon, in my opinion, you’re going to have a badge. You’re going to be a sworn officer of the law,” said Hanna.

Hanna met with Sheriff Walt McNeil and other members of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office to discuss ways on how to combat school violence.

The meeting follows reports of a Godby High School Student who was arrested after threatening to shoot up the school on his Instagram account.

Just a day before the arrest was made, Leon County Schools denied rumors of threats to campuses, ensuring that their schools were among the safest places in the community.

Regardless, school board members say they are going to ensure better safety with or without the financial help of the Florida Legislature.

“Today I sat in the senate committee when that dad told us how he buried his son next to his mom, and his brother was sitting right in front of me,” said Leon County school board member, DeeDee Rasmussen. “I don’t ever want that to be us. We’ve got to do everything we can do.”

Members also discussed their concerns regarding arming teachers and adding metal detectors in schools. They emphasized a need for a more thorough look into mental health.

“We have to do a better job of identifying young people who are struggling for whatever reason and get them the help they desperately need,” said Hanna.

“My concern has been that everybody says ‘there’s no place for hate,’ that is why we have to get counselors in these schools,” said Gloria Smith, who has two grandchildren enrolled in Leon County Schools.  “I’ve been going to the legislative sessions and one of the things they’ve been talking about is mental health. We need to get folks in schools that are certified in these areas that can identify these kids.”

Leon County officials are encouraging parents to talk to their children about their safety.  

“We cannot have a child come home and this be an unfamiliar topic to them,” said Hunkiar.