U.S. Sen. Rick Scott hopes to marshal a $70 billion School Guardian Act to help guarantee that schools nationwide have the presence of law enforcement to deter mass school shootings.
Scott, a Naples Republican, introduced the bill Tuesday.
“The truth is every school is going to need law enforcement,” Scott emphasized. “We’ve got to make sure all schools are safe. Protect our kids.”
Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, as well as other members of the sheriff’s office, Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler — who started the group Moms for Liberty — and relatives of some victims of the 2018 Parkland school shooting joined Scott for the announcement in Naples.
Scott said he hopes to get the School Guardian Act passed in the U.S. Senate and in the House of Representatives. He added he hopes to get the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval.
“It’s going to save lives, that’s why I’m doing it,” Scott said.
Scott: Plan triggered by Parkland shooting
Scott said that after 14 students and three educators died Feb. 14, 2018, when former student Nikolas Cruz, 24, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, he spearheaded the creation of three teams that would focus on school safety.
They were mental health counselors, educators and law enforcement, he said.
“None of us want anything like this to happen again, anywhere in this country. For sure in our hometown,” Scott said.
Scott said that as a result of the three working groups they passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in March 2018, which among things ensured every public school in Florida had the presence of law enforcement.
“It’s too bad we have to do this,” Scott said. “It’s too bad we have to think about this, but we did.”
Scott said that as a result of the 2018 bill, there would be an armed police officer, a sheriff’s deputy or an individual who has completed a trained program in safety in all schools across Florida’s 67 counties.
“It’s remarkable the law enforcement (that) goes in, but also the people at the school that keep these kids safe,” Scott said.
Scott said the bill isn’t just aimed at public schools. He referenced a recent mass shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, private elementary school, Covenant School, where three students and three staffers died.
The shooter, Audrey Hale, a former student, died after a crossfire with authorities.
Scott said the bill could be “historic legislation.”
Tom Hoyer and Gena Hoyer, whose son Luke Hoyer, 15, died during the gunfire on Feb. 14, 2018, were among Tuesday’s speakers.
“The tragic shooting in Parkland urged us to work closely with then-Gov. Rick Scott to implement effective measures here in Florida to protect students and teachers in schools,” Tom Hoyer said during his address. “We continue now to do that on a national level. No family should endure the heartbreak that we still go through to this day.”
Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina Petty, 14, the same day, discussed Florida’s sheriff’s offices’ efforts to prevent mass school shootings since.
“This is what’s needed in every one of our schools. We need to be able to protect our kids,” Ryan Petty said. “Nothing we teach them in that classroom matters if they don’t make it home.”
Ziegler expressed that while she was a school board member in Sarasota County when the Parkland shooting happened she worked with other school boards statewide to “quickly answer those questions on what to do.”
“It’s a tragedy to think about every day when you kiss your child to school … Go to school … That there is this element in your mind thinking about they may not come back,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler said she believes every school nationwide should have the resources and support to protect students.
Scott to pull funds from IRS to pay for armed school law enforcement
Scott said the plan will be funded with $70 billion the IRS has in place for agents.
“We don’t need to look around the country,” Scott said. “We don’t need those IRS agents. What we need is more law enforcement agents. We need more law enforcement across the country.”
During a brief address, Sheriff Rambosk extended his condolences to parents of some of the Parkland students killed in the school shooting more than five years ago.
“And all families who have lost lives to school shootings,” he added. “This is a senseless and unimaginable loss that no one should have experienced.”
Rambosk said his sheriff’s office, as well as other neighboring agencies, have made a commitment to prioritize school safety.
“When it comes to school safety, there’s no substitute for having a law enforcement officer on a school campus armed, trained and committed to stop a threat,” Rambosk said.
During the 2021-22 school year, Lee County Schools recorded 81 incidents linked to weapons possession, according to data compiled by the Florida Department of Education. That’s a nearly 69% increase from the 48 reported in the 2020-21 school year and a nearly 119% increase from the 37 reported in the 2019-20 school year.
In contrast, Collier County Schools reported 36 incidents in the 2021-22 school year, the data states. That’s an increase of 12.5% from the 32 incidents in the 2020-21 school year and a 157% increase from the 14 incidents in the 2019-20 school year.
Collier County schools, which don’t participate in the state’s Guardian Program allowing schools to arm personnel, have had law enforcement present in schools for more than four decades, Karie Partington, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told the Naples Daily News.
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