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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 1 month ago

Sarasota County Schools are safe, says Florida assessment

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The Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool is broken down into seven categories to asses the health and safety of school districts.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Sarasota County schools are healthy and safe, according to Florida standards.

After the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida statute required school districts use the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool. FSSAT is broken down into seven categories that assess all aspects of health, safety and security in the district.

Tim Enos, the chief of the Sarasota County Schools Police Department, told the school board that after several steps taken in the last year, the district now meets or exceeds the best practices thresholds in all seven categories, which include school infrastructure, school security, and prevention and threat management.

Improvements include perimeter fencing and the creation of a single point of entry at all schools, as well as the staffing of a school resource officer on every campus.

Additionally, the school’s police department is working on implementing Rave Panic Button, a phone app that would send lockdown notifications to all school employees.

The app can be downloaded by all teachers and staff of the school district, which would allow any district employee to report suspicious activity. However, using geolocation, it can only be used while on a district campus.

If a person pushes a button on the app, 911 is immediately called, and a notification is sent to the entire campus.

“It’s about the speed and how fast we can protect the kids, so we can go to a lockdown and get out of sight,” Enos said. “We know in the last incident, what [the shooter] saw is what he shot at.”

School Board Member Shirley Brown expressed concerns that employees might issue a lockdown notification when it’s not necessary. Superintendent Todd Bowden, however, said that he would rather lean on the side of overcaution.

“I think it’s very important that we establish that you, as an employee, have professional judgment, and we’re not going to second-guess you,” Bowden said. “If you call a lockdown, and it’s not necessary, there are not going to be repercussions unless you did it with malice.”

Enos said the implementation of the app is still in progress because employees have yet to update their cellphone numbers in the system. Once they sign up for the app, they are sent through a verification process to ensure that no nondistrict employees have access to the app.

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