Miami-Dade students and parents should expect an extraordinary police presence when classes resume on a normal schedule Thursday, as an anxious system grapples with a horrific school shooting outside its boundaries but close to home.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the system’s own police forces will be on full deployment, while officers and squad cars from municipal and county agencies will be dispatched to schools across Miami-Dade to assist with increased security measures.
The beefed-up and highly visible deployment, previewed in a taped message from Carvalho sent to parents’ phones across the county, serves two purposes — first, as a guard against copy-cat attacks. Second, it serves as a salve for anxious families and school employees as students return to classrooms on the heels of at least 17 children and adults being killed by gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Miami-Dade’s school system is also dispatching counselors for students and employees who need help coping with the aftermath of the violence miles away.
“We can get through this together,” Carvalho said in a video message broadcast Wednesday, “if we continue to be aware and mindful of troubled signs that are often before us, and communicate them to our staffs, to our principals and to our teachers.”
The shooting spree inside a high school will force Miami-Dade and school systems across the country to rethink some security procedures, Carvalho said. Authorities said the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, pulled a fire alarm inside Douglas High, and that the routine evacuation that followed provided more opportunities for him to open fire on victims.
Carvalho said the scenario touched on his “worst fears,” when one safety precaution is revealed to be a vulnerability for another threat. “All the protocols were followed,” he said. “But someone interfered with those protocols.”
Even with the beefed-up police presence, Carvalho said, the Broward massacre mostly speaks to the need for broader actions beyond security. Like his counterpart in Broward, Superintendent Robert Runcie, Carvalho said expanded resources for mental-health issues can help prevent senseless shootings.
He said addressing psychological issues can be far more effective than, say, installing metal detectors, which bring “exorbitant” costs and still can’t stop someone from smuggling in a firearm under a fence at recess.
“There are limits to the envelope of safety you can impose around the school. This is why we try to be as vigilant as possible on prevention, to try and avert these types of tragedies,” he said. “The research is pretty consistent that mental prevention trumps metal detection every time.”
He also said the Douglas High shooting offers another horrific reminder of the need for national action on gun control.
“At what point — after how many killed? — will we have the courage to address the issue of access to guns and gun ownership?” Carvalho asked. “There are some on this equation who will only want to talk about mental health. Others will only want to talk about gun control. How about being reasonable, and talking about both?”