Audit Finds Flaws With Florida’s Safe Schools Office

AP | by Brendan Farrington | September 30, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Office of Safe Schools, which was created after a mass shooting at a Parkland high school, hasn’t been carrying out all of its statutory responsibilities, according to a report by the state’s auditor general.

The report examined the office’s operations during 2019 and determined it was understaffed and not fully carrying out responsibilities lawmakers assigned it when they passed a bill to address school safety after 17 people were fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. The office is part of the Department of Education.

“Due to limited Office staff resources, some statutory duties assigned to the Office were either not performed or were administered in whole or in part by other Department organizational units and vendors,” the report said.

In its reply to the audit’s findings, the Department of Education said it took an “all hands on” deck approach to meeting statutory responsibilities.

“It would be an excessively naive thought to separate the responsibilities of (the Office of Safe Schools) from (the Florida Department of Education) in this analysis, because they are inherently one in the same,” the department said.

The audit report stood by its finding, saying it recognized the department-wide effort to implement the school safety law, but said the law requires the office itself handle the responsibilities.

The bill lawmakers passed and then-Gov. Rick Scott signed assigned the office to oversee best practices, training standards and ensure compliance in school safety requirements, including prevention efforts, intervention efforts and emergency planning.

The audit also said the Office of Safe Schools didn’t meet other statutory requirements, like establishing a formula for distributing state money to train school employees to carry guns in schools. It also noted a shortcoming on a school safety portal that’s supposed to allow schools and law enforcement to share information about potential threats.

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