Presidents’s Message & Topic of the Month by Chief Ian Moffett

Florida Senate Bill 7026 was signed by Governor Rick Scott on March 9, 2018, which was promulgated into law under FS 1006. This new legislation is now called the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. This new public safety act provides for codifying and establishing the Office of Safe Schools within the Florida Department of Education (DOE) which will serve as a central repository for the best practices, training standards, and compliance regarding school safety and security. The important action that is proscribed in this new legislation is the word standards. In fact, standards can be considered something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example. The legislature provided for standards in school safety by mandating a law enforcement officer, in the form of school resource officers or school safety officers, to be assigned to each school facility.

This new public safety law also mandates that each District name an administrator, a school safety specialist, which will serve as the liaison with local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as national, state and community agencies and organizations, in matters of school safety and security. Each District must implement threat assessment teams, conduct risk/vulnerability assessments of each school, conduct active shooter and other critical incidents drills as often as other mandatory drills are conducted during the school year, and coordinate with local first responders to name a few of these mandates.  

During the month of April, I and Dr. Hector Garcia, treasurer of NASSLEO, traveled to Washington DC to meet with the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Deputy Secretary of United States Department of Education (US DOE), and Senators and Congressman on matters related to school safety standards. We also participated in a forum  hosted by Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson on school safety  and were joined by many other persons from a cross section of similar interests in law enforcement, parental organization, mental health professionals, parents who victims of the Parkland tragedy, community organizations, the National Threat Assessment Center operated by the United States Secret Service. The focus of our meetings and this forum was to provide insight and recommendations on providing national standards on school safety and security.  As stated in the Sun Sentinel: 

Parents of Parkland victims call for national school safety standards

Nation Apr 18, 2018 6:20 PM EDT

WASHINGTON — Parents of students who died in the Parkland, Florida, and school shooting are calling for a range of steps to prevent gun violence, including measures to “harden” schools to minimize attacks and to identify potential shooters before they act.

Max Schachter, whose son Alex was among 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, urged national standards for school safety that include bulletproof glass and technology that allows teachers and other officials to communicate during a crisis.

Schachter said he wasn’t proposing that “every school fence be 10 feet high” but said practical steps can be taken to make schools safer and prevent future tragedies.

“We have failed to protect our children.”

Speaking Wednesday at a Capitol forum led by Florida’s two U.S. senators, Schachter said airports and other public buildings must meet national standards, and he wondered why schools don’t have to.

“We have failed to protect our children,” he said.

Click picture for Dr. Garcia’s BIO

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During our meetings in Washington DC, it was evident that our national legislative representatives have taken up the cause of providing funding to assist local educational agencies. This includes a 2 billion dollar grant titled Stop School Violence Act which will fund the strengthening of school safety through training, security measures and treatment for the mentally ill.

The key to the use of these funds will be based on best practices and evidence based programs. However, we need to ensure that there are some basic standards just like we have in our critical infrastructures and key assets around the nation. Our airports, seaports, bridges, nuclear and hydro plants, sporting centers, courthouses, and other governmental structures have minimum standards. Now more than ever, we need the Department of Homeland Security to be the lead agency in providing assistance and guidance in this area. As the new Deputy Secretary of US DOE, Retired Brigadier General Mick Zais leads the commission of reviewing school safety in the wake of the Parkland tragedy. It is comforting to know that Deputy Secretary Zais, who was my Brigadier General for the 7th Infantry Division, will serve in this capacity because the mission always gets accomplished for an Infantry Soldier and the Army has standards.  

Click picture for Deputy Secretary Mick Zais Wikipedia  

More importantly, the commission is comprised of the Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The commission plans to travel the country to hold public-facing meetings to include the input of parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders. I urge the commission to recommend standards for school safety and security so the funding can be used in the most efficient and effective manner.

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In closing, based on the new Marjorie Stone Douglas Safety Act, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools has established a new Office of School Safety and Compliance. I have accepted a new position to establish and operate the Office of School Safety and Compliance within our District. I along with Dr. Hector Garcia, will venture into another journey of our careers to ensuring the entire District is provided resources and maintain the new legislative mandates and standards to ensure our school facilities are safe.

These new executive law enforcement positions provides for a detachment from the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department to the new office and I will serve as the Chief of School Safety and Compliance Officer and Dr. Garcia will serve as the District School Safety and Compliance Officer. Once again, this is an example of taking the lead in school safety as Education is First but Safety is Always.

Please join us at this year’s 49th Annual Training Conference in Long Island, NY to hear more about this topic from our keynote speaker Max Schechter, during the President’s Scholarship Awards Dinner, and other experts throughout the conference.  Register today at: http://www.nassleo.org/conference49.php.  As  Always, Stay Safe Out There. 

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Chief Ian A. Moffett, President