#schoolsafety | Florida Commission Calls for Fewer School-Shooting Drills

A Florida commission investigating last year’s school shooting in Parkland recommended that the state’s schools reduce the frequency of active-shooter drills because they might be traumatizing students.

The proposal came at a meeting on Tuesday of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission in Orlando, Fla., which is preparing its second report for

Gov. Ron DeSantis

and state lawmakers. The panel was created by a law passed in the wake of the shooting, and among its tasks is providing recommendations on improving school safety.

Under the same law, the state mandated that active-shooter drills take place once a month in Florida schools. “Since that time, some students, educators and parents have expressed concern that the drills are too frequent and potentially traumatizing to some students, elementary school students in particular,” read a draft report submitted for the meeting.

Two law-enforcement officials testified to the commission in August that they also were concerned about “drill fatigue” due to the frequency of exercises, according to the report. They suggested shifting emphasis from quantity of drills to quality of drills.

The draft report recommends the number of mandatory active-shooter drills be decreased to four a year and should be “developmentally appropriate” for elementary school students. Law-enforcement officers must be present for such drills; and they should be realistic, putting into practice emergency plans for using panic buttons or communicating with first responders, the report said.

Pinellas County Sheriff

Bob Gualtieri,

chairman of the commission, said the recommendation shouldn’t be seen as a criticism of the requirement imposed by lawmakers, and the mandate was needed because some schools initially were resistant.

The policy has been “very effective in moving the needle and getting us to a certain place,” Sheriff Gualtieri said. “Now that we’re at that certain place…there’s room to back it off some.”

Panel members discussed numerous other recommendations. One is to amend existing law to make clear that only Florida sheriffs may conduct training for armed guardians as part of a program created by the legislature to provide school security. The suggestion stemmed from an incident involving one county that hired a private company to offer guardian training.

Another recommendation is to insist that schools assess the physical security of their facilities at least once a year. The commission found that some schools weren’t using a safety-assessment tool that can identify security weaknesses and were failing to file required reports.

Since 1998, there have been more than a dozen shootings at kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools that resulted in multiple deaths. These are some of the victims. (Originally published Feb. 16, 2018)

Write to Arian Campo-Flores at arian.campo-flores@wsj.com

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