Parkland two years later: School security changes and what's next

Parkland two years later: School security changes and what's next (WPEC)

A devastating rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead.

In the two years since that terrible day in February 2018, school officials, families, politicians and security experts have been focused on protecting kids in school.

CBS12 News is taking a closer look at how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done.

“I’ll be in school sometimes and I think about it. It just will cause some panic over me, but I am here now, I am thankful,” said Emily Pintilie, a 17-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman High School.

Feb. 14 marks the day many lives changed forever.

Pintilie was in Spanish class when a former student came on campus and started shooting.

“I did hear a few gunshots, so like it does get to me sometimes,” she recalled.

To avoid thinking about that day, Pintilie puts her energy into family.

As she gets ready to go to college in the fall, she says new security measures at school have relieved some of her understandable anxiety.

“Douglas has been really on top of school safety and making sure we are always safe with the extra security around, with the badges, the gates and just having those code yellows,” Pintilie said.

Weeks after the attack, then-governor Rick Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act to improve school security.

Then in April 2018, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, made up of law enforcement, educators, lawmakers and survivors, began their work by outlining significant security failures on campus.

Doors were unlocked, security cameras weren’t installed, and an armed school resource officer waited outside instead of trying to stop the attack.

Schools from Broward County to Alaska sprang into action, making changes to better protect students and staff.

“Our highest priority, to make sure our kids are as safe as possible in the best learning environment we can provide in Broward County,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools.

In Broward, Runcie has implemented classroom door locks, a single-point of entry, new fencing and gates, additional mental health programs, more armed security and unarmed monitors and specialists called “Guardians."

“Those individuals work to not just be a security presence in our campus, but develop positive relationships with our students, so they become a trusted adult that students can talk to in confidence and in times of need,” he said.

Technology is also part of the solution with new surveillance cameras and intercoms connected to a central command post.

One that is now expanding and moving to a bigger location.

The district also hired Brian Katz to serve as the newly created chief safety and security officer.

His office handles security for every school in the district, a significant change from reporting up through the principal.

“We can start to roll out new processes, new protocols, and be able to measure a consistent standard across all of the schools,” Katz said.

Standards that may soon include bullet-resistant glass and improved communication, like emergency radios around campus and on school buses.

“That’s where the seconds really matter. Our ability to share that information quickly, based on our timing of drills, based on the after actions that we do after each drill, anything we can do that speeds up that first identification will make our response better,” Katz said.

Right now, Broward County Public Schools utilizes hand held metal detectors periodically at schools, at some events and sporting activities throughout the year and may deploy them if a specific threat or concern is identified. They do not utilize static, walk-through metal detectors within the district.

The district has spent more than $150 million on school safety since Feb. 14, 2018.

According to a spokeswoman with Broward County Public Schools, it's taxpayer funded through a combination of grants, the 2018 voter referendum and state allocations.

So what’s next?

The district says it has received grant funding and designated additional capital funding for enhanced duress-button capability within the schools beyond the current ability for teachers to use their classroom intercom buttons, mobile phones and desk phones to alert the office of an emergency,

State law now requires code red drills once a month.

A part of life for children and teens like Pintilie, who are probably better prepared for an active shooter than most adults.

“How to be safe in situations, that’s an important thing in life. Not everybody really knows what to do in those kinds of situations, and I feel like Douglas has taught me this is what you do,” Pintilie said.

But physical security and drills are only part of the equation.

Ryan Petty, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina, is a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Commission.

He acknowledges positive steps have been taken, but told CBS12 News part of the problem is not being addressed.

In a statement, he said:

“My knowledge of specific issues with Broward schools is limited. As a Commission we are working to improve school safety in all schools and districts across Florida, specifically with regards to Broward County Public schools:
The MSD Commission found the District was not in compliance with state law and unprepared with an SRO or armed Guardian at each school at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. There’s was confusion at the District about their oversight responsibility for ensuring Charter schools, which are public schools, were complying with state law. It took significant pressure from the MSD Commission to bring the district into compliance.
The culture within BCPS that allows threats posed by dangerous students, like the Parkland attacker, to fester has not materially changed. Many of the same policies, trainings (or lack thereof) & district directives on dealing with troubled or violent students are in place today. Just look at the teacher survey done by the Broward Teachers Union. Many teachers in Broward county public schools are afraid to be in their classrooms. “

Students and families impacted by the shooting have taken their case across the country, calling for change that has sometimes been slow in coming.

Survivors led the March For Our Lives protest events demanding increased gun control attended by hundreds of thousands across the U.S.

Many Parkland parents formed organizations on school & gun safety, like the non-partisan Stand with Parkland.

That group was on Capitol Hill this week, where the Trump administration rolled out, a federal clearinghouse of information to help make schools safer.

“It’s going to be hard like always, but we will get through this and we have,” Pintilie said.

Districts all over America are struggling with challenges they never expected to face.

Securing classrooms and cafeterias against armed attackers instead of focusing on learning and preparing their students for whatever future they dream about.

In the end, officials and educators agree, along with the locks and alarms and threat-reporting apps, it’s the eyes and ears of the children themselves that can make the most difference.

Not only in reporting what they see and hear, but in how they interact with one another and the school community we help them build.