Bill aims to strengthen safety in state’s schools

Photo courtesy: Boys and Girls Club of Huntington Valley

In response to growing concerns about school safety, Florida lawmakers have introduced House Bill 1473, also known as the School Safety Act. 

The bill, which aims to enhance security protocols in educational institutions, has garnered attention for its proposed provisions concerning after-school activities and childcare services.

Among its key provisions are enhanced security training for school personnel, increased funding for mental health resources, and the installation of surveillance systems on school premises. One of the most contentious aspects of the bill pertains to its implications for after-school care programs.

Denise Jefferson, a paraprofessional at Riley Elementary School, applauds Leon County Schools on its safety provisions. She said that Riley has a school resource officer as an extra layer of protection.

“I think that you know, the county, they’re doing a good job,” Jefferson said. “One more thing I want to say is that we have SRO on campus … they’re here until the last student (has) left campus.”

Under HB1473, after-school care providers would be required to adhere to strict safety standards, including background checks for staff members, emergency preparedness protocols and regular safety inspections of facilities.

The bill proposes the establishment of mandatory safety training programs for school personnel, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to identify and address potential security threats effectively.

Kaitlyn Wisdom, a Florida resident and mother of two, said because of the recent laws regarding education in Florida public schools, she is uncomfortable with the idea of leaving her children in any after-care programs. Wisdom also said that ever since she relocated to Georgia, she has felt more comfortable with their programs.

“As a child who was enrolled in after-school programs in Miami-Dade County … the laws regarding education in Florida schools makes me uncomfortable as a Black mother to have my children enrolled in any after school care program in Florida specifically,” Wisdom said. “Being that my children and I now live in Fulton County,  if I see the program aligns with what I believe is best for my children.”

Despite the differing viewpoints surrounding HB1473, there is a shared unanimity on the importance of prioritizing school safety and implementing actions to protect students and staff from harm.

HB1473 is still under review by the Florida House of Representatives, with discussions ongoing regarding potential amendments and revisions. Regardless of the outcome, the introduction of this legislation highlights a shared commitment to fostering safe and secure learning environments in Florida’s schools.