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As students head back to school, sheriffs stress the importance of ‘see something, say something’ | #schoolsaftey

LARGO, Fla. — School hadn’t even started yet when deputies in Pinellas County arrested a 15-year-old they say was threatening to shoot up his school, and now with kids back in the classroom and school safety at the top of mind, law enforcement officials stress keeping schools safe is a 24/7 job.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his office investigates anything that could potentially be a threat, like when a student at East Lake High School saw a threatening message and reported it.

 “It’s really important, but it’s an adage that some may say is overused but it has a lot of meaning: See something, say something,” said Gualtieri.

And that goes for anyone in the community who is closer to the kids than law enforcement; teachers, parents, friends and family. 

Gualtieri serves as the Chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, established in the wake of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland. Over the past five years, commissioners have been tasked with investigating and making recommendations to improve school safety.

“In 2018 school safety in Florida was not where it needed to be, and evidenced by, you don’t need to look any further than what happened in Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th of 2018,” Gualtieri said.

Those recommendations include establishing how threats are evaluated, pushing for more school resource officers and hardening buildings with locks and single entries.

“We had to change the culture in the schools,” Gualtieri explained.

Part of what goes into school safety is making sure the entire community stays on top of that cultural change, as well as constant training for deputies on how to respond in case of tragedy.

“The safety and security of our children is our number one priority in Polk County,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who also serves on the commission says a lot of the safety enhancements made over the past few years are invisible to the children.

“We want everyone to understand that the school environment is a community environment, it’s a safe environment and it’s a fun environment,” Sheriff Judd explained.

“Schools are significantly safer now than they were in 2018. We still have work to do, but were on the right path,” Gualtieri added.

The MSDHS Public Safety Commission last met on May 4th. Their next meeting has not yet been scheduled.  

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