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National Reports Question Florida Policies Enacted In Response To Parkland Shooting

Max Schachter, whose son Alex was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, listens during a meeting of the state commission tasked with investigating the shooting. Schachter is one of two fathers of victims who serve on the commission.
Leslie Ovalle
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

New state policies born out of the Parkland school shooting have drawn the scrutiny of two national nonprofit research organizations, which have argued in recent reports that the strategies could lead to violence or discrimination against students.

The Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., and the Southern Poverty Law Center released reports this month criticizing Florida’s response to the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Aspen Institute’s research examines the Florida Schools Safety Portal, a database of students’ disciplinary and criminal records as well as their mental healthcare histories.

It was created per the recommendation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was tasked with investigating the shooting and how to prevent future violence in schools. The group argued a central repository of information could help identify students who might pose a threat to themselves or others.

“Preventing school shootings through data is fraught with ethical and technical risks, including a lack of data quality and the potential for biases across multiple levels of predictive algorithms,” the report’s authors wrote.

The institute “recommends that procedures be established to prevent prejudices against student groups that are disproportionately impacted by digital surveillance technologies and increased policing."

Read more here.

A more comprehensive review from the Southern Poverty Law Center criticized the makeup of the commission, arguing the political appointees lack education expertise. The organization also argued that the commission's recommendations, such as allowing school staff to be armed, aren’t evidence-based and could put students in harm’s way.

Representatives for the commission did not immediately return a request for comment. The commission is meeting this week near Orlando as it prepares a report for the state Legislature with further recommendations for policy changes and mulls its future.

Read the SPLC report here:

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Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.