Threat assessment major part of proposed school safety changes

Published: Mar. 1, 2019 at 6:05 AM EST
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By: Capitol News Service

March 1, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – When Florida lawmakers return to the Capitol next week, one of their first items of business will be expanding school safety legislation developed after the Parkland shooting last year.

While arming teachers is getting a lot of attention, provisions in the bill seek to identify threats and stop them before they happen.

Created by the FBI and Secret Service, threat assessment management focuses on the fact that potential assailants often show signs of their intentions long before they act, but no one connects the dots.

“Most shooters exhibit four to five of the indicators,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.

Directed by the governor, Swearingen has studied every school shooting since Columbine.

“There’s a misconception that these people snap. They don’t snap. They decide,” said Swearingen. "In almost all of these instances it's been proven that they planned these attacks days, weeks, even months ahead of time. So, the further you can intercept them from that pathway to violence, the better chance you have of preventing a targeted violence attack.”

The hope is that threat assessment teams will connect the dots.

In hindsight, FDLE says the Parkland shooter exhibited six or seven of the markers that should have identified him as a threat. Swearingen says he believes if it had been in place prior to the Parkland shooting, it could have stopped Nikolas Cruz.

“I believe it could have been different, yes," said Swearingen.

Under this year's school safety legislation, threat assessments will get new attention.

“So, we’re taking it to the next level, so that we can know, district by district, how those threat assessments are being conducted,” said Senate President Bill Galvano.

Under the legislation, the Department of Education has until August 1, just before school year starts, to come up with a standardized assessment tool for every school in the state.

The legislation also sets aside $161 million for school safety for the next school year.