Governor Ron DeSantis Signs HB 1421, Improving School Safety in Florida
TALLAHASSEE, FL (STL.News) Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1421, which takes several measures to improve school safety in Florida. The steps taken by HB 1421 build on legislation over the last three years to implement the additional recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission to make schools safer and improve youth mental health in Florida. In the Freedom First Budget, Governor DeSantis also approved a record $140 million for mental health and $210 million for school safety, including school hardening grants and youth mental health awareness and assistance training.
“Every child needs a safe and secure learning environment,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “By signing HB 1421, we continue to build on the many steps we have taken since 2019 to implement the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, while also making record investments in mental health and school safety.”
“This legislation is a huge leap forward in school safety,” said State Board of Education Member Ryan Petty. “I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his bold leadership on this most fundamental issue. Nothing is more important than providing safe and secure learning environments for our children and educators. Extending the Commission’s work and requiring mental health and de-escalation training for safe-school officers will make a major difference in mitigating the risk of a future tragedy.”
“Every parent deserves to know their child is safe at school,” said Tony Montalto, President of Stand with Parkland. “This new law, which passed unanimously through the Florida Legislature, is an important next step in providing school safety assurances to families and students. Florida will continue to do everything possible to make sure our schools meet the highest safety standards and that mental health issues associated with school violence are being addressed.”
HB 1421 does the following:
- Extends the sunset of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission;
- Authorizes the Commissioner of Education to enforce, rather than just oversee, school safety and security compliance;
- Authorizes safe school officers to make arrests on charter school property;
- Requires all safe school officers to complete crisis intervention and training to improve knowledge and skills for response and de-escalate incidents on school premises;
- Requires law enforcement officers to be present and involved in active assailant emergency drills;
- Requires school boards to adopt family reunification plans in the event of an evacuation; and
- Requires that school districts must annually certify that at least 80 percent of school personnel have received mandatory youth mental health awareness training.
Since 2019, Governor DeSantis has prioritized school safety and mental health funding in Florida and has increased the amount of funding for these initiatives every year he has been in office.
In 2021, the Governor signed SB 590, which required school administrators to gather data on involuntary examinations of students and report data to the Department of Education (DOE); required school safety officers to receive mental health training; and required schools to give timely notification of threats, unlawful acts, and significant emergencies. In Fiscal Year 2021-2022, the Governor signed $368 million in the budget for school safety and mental health funding, including:
- $120 million for the Mental Health Assistance Allocation, an increase of $20 million over the previous year;
- $180 million maintained for the Safe Schools component of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP); and
- $6.5 million for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to train teachers and staff for emergencies.
These bills strengthened the protection of children by increasing communication and notifications prior to a student being subjected to an involuntary examination, and required additional mental health training for teachers and students in teacher preparation programs.
In 2020, the Governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 70, Alyssa’s Law, which required DOE to utilize funding and work with public schools to implement a panic alert system to ensure real-time coordination between first responders. For the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year, the Governor signed $342 million for school safety and mental health funding, including:
- $100 million for Mental Health Assistance Allocation, an increase of $25 million over the previous year;
- $180 million maintained for the Safe Schools component of the FEFP;
- $3 million for recurring funding to gather an analyze data from social media and state agencies; and
- $8 million for Alyssa’s Law, to implement a panic alert system between schools and emergency services.
In 2019, the Governor enacted legislation to implement school safety recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission and issued Executive Order 19-45 to require the Department of Education to communicate best practices for school safety to all school districts. In Fiscal Year 2019-2020, the Governor approved $317 million for school safety and mental health funding including:
- $180 million for the Safe Schools component of the FEFP;
- Over $80 million for Mental Health Assistance Allocation and for Youth Mental Health awareness; and
- $50 million for school hardening grants to improve security of school campuses.