Jacksonville resident Kent Stermon is leading Florida Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis’ advisory committee on public safety.
Stermon convened the 45 person committee in Tallahassee Thursday as part of a series meetings to help the incoming governor shape his policy agenda.
Among the members is Max Schachte, whose son Alex was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.
“The culture to not arrest in our schools is leading to a very, very bad situation as we saw here,” he said. “These kids are basically laughing at us.” Schachter thinks the problem is a culture of leniency.
Andrew Pollack is serving on the committee along with his son Hunter. Pollack’s daughter Meadow was also killed in the February shooting. He agrees with Schachter.
“Some children need to be introduced to the judicial system. That is the problem,” he said. “And we’ll never know that with the kid that killed my daughter because of these diversionary programs.”
Diversionary programs provide young offenders with rehabilitation in the place of the traditional criminal system. The purpose of such programs is to reduce recidivism.
Jacksonville has offered various forms of diversion programs for more than 30 years.
Pollack said the diversionary programs are counterproductive.
“So they put these diversionary programs to prevent the school to prison pipeline. But at the end of the day, they actually created the school to prison pipeline,” he said.
Pollack said the judicial system is the biggest counseling entity in the country.
“Something we really need to do to the youth is introduce them to the judicial system at an early age - not when they’re over 18 and now they have a felony on their record forever,” he said.
Pollack and Schachte support the recent recommendations by the Federal Commission on School Safety, which include:
- Training school personnel to help ensure student safety
- Emergency and crisis training for law enforcement
- The transition of military veterans and retired law enforcement officials into new careers in education
- Best practices for school building security
DeSantis will be inaugurated January 8.