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State Commission Considers Whether School Resource Officers Should Have Access To Student Records

Commissioners hold a roundtable about school resource officers at schools Thursday morning inside the BB&T Center.
Caitie Switalski
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Commissioners investigating the Parkland school shooting said Thursday that law enforcement school resource officers, or SROs, should play a larger role at schools. 

Florida Sen. Lauren Book, who sits on the commission, asked the group to recommend that SROs be given access to students’ educational and disciplinary records. 

“They need to be copied and given those records,” she said. “And I know that may create some issues, but if the SRO - the person who is there to keep everyone safe - isn't aware of those things, then the populous isn't safe.”

The state's public safety commission is meeting for its second day of meetings this month, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. 

On Wednesday the commission watched a surveillance video showing former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School SRO Scot Peterson during the February shooting. He did not enter the building where the shooting was taking place. Commissioners announced they had summoned Peterson to testify at next month's meeting. 

On Thursday the commission discussed standardizing and automizing the threat assessment process for schools across the state. That's the way schools document and keep track of student incidents, including any behavioral issues that could be considered threats.  

Making that process standardized would include creating sanctions for schools who underreport or misreport incidents. It would also make former students’ reports available to the SRO, in case someone could still pose a threat to a particular school after they leave or graduate, like the confessed shooter in the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Nikolas Cruz.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said commissioner Ryan Petty, who his daughter Alaina in the shooting. “The threat assessment teams need to have a complete picture of [a] student’s disciplinary records and other information so they can accurately paint the picture of the threat that [a] student may or may not pose. They’re not getting that now.”

During Wednesday's meetings, commissioners came to the consensus that at least one law enforcement officer should be placed at each middle and high school in the state. There's not enough money, or officers, to place one at each elementary school.

However, the elementary schools could have an armed guardian - or someone who is trained and armed by the state - stationed on campus instead of an officer, the commission said. 

Read More: Stoneman Douglas Commission Debates Law Enforcment Presence At Schools

Whether or not armed guardians should be a part of schools' threat assessment teams is still being debated.

In between now and the next meeting, on Oct. 10 and 11, commissioners will have to rate possible safety measures for schools, including metal detectors, code red trainings and security camera systems on a scale of one to four. 

Level one suggestions are considered affordable and able to be implemented quickly; level four ideas are those that are more expensive and would take a longer period of time to put in place.

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.