May Miami-Dade Public Schools’ safety measures never be put to the test | Editorial

New police officers, at a swearing-in ceremony, who will serve in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
New police officers, at a swearing-in ceremony, who will serve in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Miami-Dade County Public Schools

School begins in Miami-Dade County on Monday. So does the new reality of heightened security. It was a major topic at Wednesday’s School Board meeting.

In the event of an active-shooter incident, will Miami-Dade schools be safer than they were last year?

According to School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the answer is Yes — even though no measure is 100 percent impermeable to a determined shooter.

There again will be a law-enforcement officer or resource officer stationed at every public school in Miami-Dade, as required by state law following the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.

At the request of the School Board, every charter school also will be protected by a full-time sworn officer. The number of such officers has doubled to 400 from last year and an additional 100 soon will be added.

Charter schools had been left out of this blanket coverage. They have their own sovereign school boards and bear the responsibility of being in compliance with the state law.

But School Board members put safety above jurisdiction. “We want to ensure the security of our students no matter what schools they attend,” said School Board member Maria Teresa Rojas.

Unfortunately, the situation is different in Broward County, of all places, where school began on Wednesday. At a meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Task Force, it was revealed that as school began as many as 29 charter schools still had no assigned officers on campus.

Broward Sheriff Tony Gregory said he learned only last Friday that 12 charter schools outside of the sheriff’s jurisdiction did not have armed guards in place and scrambled to help with manpower.

Smart move, but it’s hard to comprehend how this could be possible in a district that was rocked to its core by the shooting at the Parkland school.

Gregory said his deputies will only cover those schools until Friday. The sheriff is right to be put out and parents and students are owed an explanation.

In Miami-Dade, School Board member Marta Perez praised the district for the security upgrades and 130 new district initiatives. “We’re doing this even though the state continues to cut our funding,” she said.

For instance, the district has enhanced more “hard corners,” safety areas that a shooter aiming into a room can’t easily hit.

In addition 1,600 security cameras have been installed, bringing the total number to 18,000 in the entire district. The video being filmed can be seen by “all eyes in real time,” Carvalho said at Wednesday’s meeting.

That means school officials, school police and even Miami-Dade police can watch a disturbance at any given school.

The district has also beefed up two more crucial security-related components: First, scores of mental-health specialists have been added in the district. That should help in identifying troubled students. Of course, follow-through is as important in getting such students sustained help, something that failed in the case of Nikolas Cruz, the accused Parkland shooter. Second, the district is working to instill an “If you see something say something” culture in schools, offering an app to students, teachers and administrator to report anything suspicious.

In this new school year, and those ever after, let us hope these initiatives are never put to the test.