Florida private schools on verge of getting safety alerts like public schools

Florida private schools will get safety alerts just like their public school counterparts, under a bill passed by the Legislature last week and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, the bill requires police departments and other emergency response agencies to notify private schools about major incidents like bomb threats and SWAT team raids, as long as the schools opt into a notification program. The Florida Catholic Conference led the charge for the legislation, which, though non-controversial, had fallen short of passage in recent years.

“The bill’s passage was a banner day for us,” James Herzog, the conference’s associate director for education, wrote in an email. “We had advocated for it during the past three sessions and even made it our spotlight education bill during the past two ‘Catholic Days at the Capitol.’ It was an example of how even a good and simple idea requires careful advocacy and perseverance by supporters to make it to the ‘finish line’ … ”

This year’s bill was buoyed by a focus on school safety in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.  It was sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud.

There are more than 2,000 private schools in Florida, with total enrollment last year of 316,745. More background on the bill here.


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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.