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Safety, security remains top priority for South Florida school districts | #schoolsaftey

MIAMI – With the end of summer break, South Florida school districts are preparing to begin the 2023-2024 school year.

Safety and school security remain a top priority in both the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts.

CBS News Miami was given rare access to see what goes on behind the scenes of a school incident and the protocols in place to handle any perceived threat.

The Miami-Dade School District has a command center that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Schools Police Chief Ivan Silva accompanied CBS News Miami Reporter Joan Murray to the command.

“Of all the shootings nationwide, the one thing we learned is response time is critical,” said Chief Silva.

In the command center, the staff can view thousands of cameras positioned at hundreds of schools. The cameras capture who is in the hallway, cafeteria or stairwell. They even work in conjunction with local police on a ‘shot spotter’ to detect gunfire.

Chief Silva has been with the district for decades. Post the Parkland tragedy, he has seen his department nearly triple in size. There is now a police officer at every school.

Silva explained that the school police force is fully certified and officers have arrest power.

When school is in session, every staff member has access to a phone app, to activate an alert if necessary.

Executive Director of School Safety Corina Putt showed us on her phone how it works.

There is a mobile panic alert button. 

The district uses ‘Saferwatch’ to provide services. Once the alert button is pushed it gives the user the option to either call 911 or send a text.

Chief Silva says day-to-day police officers at the schools work to prevent a crisis from happening. They try to forge relationships with the students so trust is built and students feel comfortable ‘saying something when they see something.’

“We like to do prevention and prefer an option of intervention. Enforcement is a last resort,” he says.

Broward also has a district security operations center in an undisclosed location.

CBS News Miami accompanied new superintendent Dr. Peter Licata as he saw the center for the first time last month.

Like Miami-Dade, the Broward ops center has access to thousands of cameras that are in operation at schools district-wide.

Teams make decisions, says security chief Jaime Alberti. The center operates 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

In one room there is a threat assessment operation. There A team fields all calls coming into the district and determines the next step. “Depending on the veracity of the threat that happens, it gets looked and our team determines the next step,” said Alberti.

In another room, experts man the cameras at every school. They are able to access every camera at every location in real-time. They work in conjunction with local law enforcement if there is an emergency. Broward doesn’t have its own police force but school resource officers are positioned at most schools.

Every school has a panic button according to Alberti and the proper resources are deployed if a panic button is activated.

When an alert happens at a school, everyone from the principal to the special investigative unit is kept in the loop through a Microsoft Teams channel.

CBS News Miami asked new superintendent Dr. Peter Licata his impressions of the center after he viewed it for the first time.

“This is a needed item. We have behavior teams, threat assessment, teams monitoring all campuses,” said Licata. “We have to look and focus our energies on resources. It’s not going to be cheap. We will probably be expanding over time. I would like to see more personnel, more screens. The more eyes the better off we are especially at front gates and those areas,” he said.

All schools now have single-point entry to make it harder for outsiders to get into a building. Dr. Licata emphasized that safety is everyone’s responsibility. 

“It starts with everyone on campus. First teachers, students, Alyssa’s Law, all these are important, and the culture of a campus finding out when an emergency is happening. We monitor social media and I know we are linked in with government agencies. But everyone is responsible for school safety.”

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