School safety is top of mind following the shooting in Uvalde. The chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission says after years of failing to meet state safety requirements, Broward County Public Schools is making big improvements.
He credits the new superintendent Dr. Vickie L. Cartwright.
“(The) last four years, it’s no secret the commission has been pretty critical of the Broward County School District and I think this is an opportunity to showcase the improvements made,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is the chair of the safety commission.
Gualtieri says he has seen more progress in the last six months than he has in the last four years, and Broward Schools’ actions should be copied by other districts across the state.
“We found a big problem in the Broward County School District, and largely, I would say there was a culture problem, and there was a culture problem because of the lack of accountability,” Gualtieri said.
The Sheriff has dedicated the last four years to trying to prevent another Parkland shooting by heading the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which was created after the tragedy.
“The most significant obligation that we all have is to meet the parents’ expectation that when they send their kids to school in the morning the kids are coming home safe in the afternoon,” he said.
But for years, Broward County Public Schools failed to follow the commission’s recommendations, Gualtieri said.
“We were getting lip service and things weren’t getting done the way they should have been and it was very frustrating,” he said.
Sine Cartwright took over this school year, there have been great improvements, he said. The district has made strides in assessing student threats, which Gualtieri says is the best way to prevent school shootings.
An audit came out last year showing after spending big bucks on threat assessment software, there were flaws in the implementation. Now, Cartwright has a dedicated person for training and has even suspended several school administrators for failing to comply, according to the audit.
Gualtieri also points to improvements to the PROMISE Program, an alternative to arrest program. Broward wasn’t sharing names of students, worried it would lead to criminal records, but in September, Gualtieri said Cartwright agreed to share this information with the state.
He also points to Broward using metal detectors and implementing Alyssa’s Law, which puts panic buttons in the schools for staff to alert police. Law enforcement also has direct access to school cameras.
“That was a big problem in Stoneman Douglas because after the shooter shot and killed everybody and was leaving the school the cops got there, they were watching a video that was 20 minutes old,” Gualtieri said. “And it impeded the response because law enforcement didn’t have direct access, which is ridiculous.”
Gualtieri says about 85% of Broward school cameras are linked to law enforcement and Cartwright has promised 100% of them will be by the start of the next school year.
“What we see now is not only do they have the right infrastructure and the right software and process, but people are actually doing it,” Gualtieri said.
He adds that Broward Schools isn’t perfect and more changes need to be made.
NBC 6 asked Gualtieri about the school fights and other violent incidents we covered this school year, but he said that's not for him to comment on, saying his focus is on preventing school shootings. But he added that the district is a good example of how to go from the bottom of the safety list toward the top in a short period of time.
Cartwright will speak at the next commission meeting in August.