Have you ever heard someone say, “Things just aren’t the way they used to be”? When it comes to school safety in 2023, there is not a more applicable statement than that. When I am in front of groups talking about school safety and security, I often find myself making similar statements because it’s true. Nothing today looks the same as it did even 5-6 years ago. Unfortunately, Florida experienced a tragic event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 and since then everything has changed. But the fortunate thing about that tragedy is Florida is in a better place today than it has ever been when protecting our students and staff at schools. Every year our legislators go to work and when the dust settles in the spring, new legislation regarding school safety emerges. Often, we are still trying to catch up to the mandates of the prior year, but we all know this work is important. The 2023 legislation focused mainly on the new Florida Harm Prevention and Threat Management Model that aims to help address threats to schools, but more importantly to intervene early for those individuals who are on the pathway to violence.
So, what does Threat Management look like in schools? Every school in our district has a Threat Management Team which consists of an administrator, counselor, instructional member, and law enforcement officer. These teams are tasked with determining the validity of threats to others as they are reported. The new Florida Model training for all members consists of 8 to 12 hours of in-person training depending on the position on the team. Currently, the Citrus County School District is training approximately 167 Threat Management Team members on the new model, which is effective January 1, 2024. What is encouraging to me about this new model is its similarity to what we started here in Citrus County 20 years ago.