School district supports Scott’s school safety plan

OKEECHOBEE — On Feb. 23 Governor Rick Scott announced a major action plan to keep students safe following the tragic shooting in Parkland.

At a press conference from the capitol building, Gov. Scott announced a $500 million spending plan to bolster school safety and improve mental health programs in the state.

In addition, he proposed increasing the minimum age to own a firearm from 18 to 21.

Bump stocks will be banned. And he wants lawmakers to approve a violent threat restraining order. The restraining order would need to be approved by a court and would be a way to keep firearms out of the hands of those who suffer from mental illness.

Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Renee Geeting said the school district has reacted positively to the proposals.

“The School District of Okeechobee County is supportive of these recommendations,” explained Mrs. Geeting. “Many of the recommendations are already in place or are being addressed locally, however, the increased funding that has been requested would allow the school district to achieve these goals quickly.”

On Feb. 26 the Okeechobee County School Board held a meeting with Sheriff Noel Stephen to discuss the safety and security issues of the students and the schools.

During that meeting there was discussion of the plan that Gov. Scott has developed.

“The primary concern of the school board and the sheriff’s office is the safety and welfare of our students and faculty,” said Mrs. Geeting.

Students from Parkland and gun control advocates have called for a ban on assault weapons in Florida, something Gov. Scott has said is “not the answer.” On Feb. 26 the Florida Senate rejected an amendment to a bill that would ban assault weapons in the state.

The Senate Bill 7022, which allows law enforcement to seize firearms from individuals under certain conditions and prohibits a person younger than a certain age from purchasing a firearm, was advanced without the amendment.

Patricia Brigham, Co-Chair of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and 1st Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said the proposals are a step in the right direction, but aren’t enough.

“While we applaud our lawmakers for addressing the need for policy changes in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we believe the proposals do not go far enough,” said Mrs Brigham. “Raising the age limit to 21 to purchase a rifle in Florida does not address the main problem: semiautomatic assault weapons. Many recent mass shooters were over the age of 21 when they wreaked havoc, death, and destruction. The Pulse shooter was 29. The Las Vegas shooter was 64.

The list goes on. The fact is we need a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Anything less is woefully inadequate.”

Two more proposals were advanced in Tallahassee on Feb. 26. They are SB 7026, which relates to active shooter policies, including the creation of a voluntary program that provides “firearm safety and proficiency training for selected faculty and staff strategically focused on providing security” in attacks, and SB 702, which creates an exemption to public record laws for a victim’s address in mass violence on school grounds.

The bills will now move on to the Florida House of Representatives.

Parents and staff in the Okeechobee County School District are encouraged to share their ideas with school administrators. Social media is monitored but a direct call of concern will receive immediate attention. If you see something, say something. Call the sheriff’s office, the school, the district office or the Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers hotline (1-800-273-8477), if you have information related to school safety.

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