Miami-Dade Schools want $30 million to protect against mass shootings

A Miami-Dade Schools Police K-9 unit responds to an incident at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School in February 2016.
A Miami-Dade Schools Police K-9 unit responds to an incident at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School in February 2016. Miami Herald file photo

Miami-Dade County’s school system wants an extra $30 million this year from Florida to better prepare classrooms for a mass-shooting era — with bulletproof glass, advanced monitoring of social media and social workers trying to spot troubled students before they erupt in violence.

The requested state money would let Miami-Dade hire more police and mental-health workers, beef up school security with automatically locking doors and upgraded public announcement systems, and purchase software and hire staff to mine social media for potential threats.

The request came in a letter Tuesday to state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron from Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and multiple elected officials, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

Miami-Dade currently receives $10 million from the state’s Safe Schools program.

“We must do all we can to protect the sanctity of schools by safeguarding our children,” read the letter.

It also calls for making it harder for people with “mental health or emotional issues” to obtain firearms, calling that step a “first line of defense against mass casualty incidents that have become all too common throughout the nation.”

The funding request seeks $10 million for an additional 100 members of the school system’s police force. For $8 million, the school system would hire 75 mental-health professionals and social workers focused on intervening with potential troubled students. Four people would be hired to counsel students exposed to violent crime.

Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto M. Carvalho posted a video on Twitter addressing the mass shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

A multi-year request for equipment and building improvements would cost $12 million the first year. The money would pay for video monitoring as well as monitoring the internet at schools; evaluating classrooms for bulletproof glass; mechanisms to automatically lock all classroom doors; creating digital floor plans to allow SWAT teams to more quickly navigate the halls during a shooting incident; an upgrade of school address systems to allow for better communication during a crisis; and data-mining software and social-media monitoring to spot potentially problematic individuals before they become violent. Some of the money would pay for prosecutor staff to help in the monitoring.

The letter also was signed by Perla Tabares Hantman, chairwoman of the school board, and Esteban ‘Steve” Bovo, chairman of the County Commission.

A video taken by a 9th grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shows how the children sought refuge in a classroom and how they were rescued by security forces.

Douglas Hanks: 305-376-3605, @doug_hanks