Volusia County Schools is committed to the safety and security of students and staff. Some of the ways we ensure a safe learning and working environment for our community include emergency plans, regular drills and exercises, site security assessments, infrastructure improvements, and visitor management to name a few. We also have video surveillance on school buses and on campus. All our public schools are staffed with trained personnel like school resource officers/deputies and school guardians to keep our campuses safe and secure. The district also works in close partnership with our local law enforcement agencies to ensure readiness.
New Legislation and Armed Personnel on Campus
On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There were 17 fatalities and 17 others injured. This tragic event changed the safety and security landscape in state public schools forever.
On March 9, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 7026. Among other things, the legislation required the presence of an armed person in each public school in the district. Additionally:
- Armed staff undergo criminal background checks, drug testing and psychological evaluation and complete 144 hours of firearms and diversity training
- School Resource Officers & School Resource Deputies must undergo mental health crisis intervention training
- Districts have the option of participating in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program
On May 22nd, district staff recommended the School Marshal Program, which defined how the district will comply with the requirement for armed personnel in campuses set forth in SB 7026:
- Maintain the School Resource Deputy (SRD) program with the Volusia Sheriff’s Office for the middle schools and high schools. The number of SRDs was increased by four to a total of 17.
- Maintain a similar School Resource Officer (SRO) program with local police departments, for select elementary and secondary schools
- Appoint certain volunteer school employees as “School Guardians” to serve in elementary schools, creating a new job description and hiring staff who meet eligibility requirements
The school board approved the implementation of the program. Immediately, the district appointed a school safety specialist as required by law. By the end of July 2018, 47 school guardians have undergone 144 hours of required training. All schools across the district including seven charter schools, had an armed personnel on campus by the first day of schoolyear 2018-19. To date, Volusia County Schools have 61 guardians on staff, which includes two district personnel certified to perform guardian duties when needed.
The school board opted out of arming teachers in the classrooms (as provided for by Senate Bill 7030).
Violence Prevention and Intervention Training
In June 2018, the school board approved a memorandum of understanding with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation to train staff and students on violence prevention and intervention, at no cost to the district:
- Say Something – How to look for warning signs, signals and threats of violence to self and others, especially on social media
- Start with Hello – How to be more inclusive and connected to one another to create connectedness and sustain an inclusive culture/community
- Signs of Suicide – How to identify, intervene and get help for people who may be depressed or suicidal
- Safety Assessment and Intervention – For adults: How to identify, assess and respond to threats of violence or at-risk behavior before a tragedy takes place
School Hardening and District wide Security
Prior to new legislation, the district already had safety and security systems in place and has only enhanced them since. To name a few:
1. A safety and security program containing 63 standards, which covers the following areas:
- Administrative services
- Emergency management
- Health services
- Law enforcement
- School food services
- Student services
- Transportation services
With the new legislation, the district began using the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool (FSSAT) for school security assessments. The district is on its second year of utilizing FSSAT this school year.
2. A computerized visitor management system, which (a) screens school visitors for sex offender status and alerts staff of custody information, and (b) allows volunteer background checks and management.
3. Infrastructure investments for security through the half cent sales tax approved by voters in 2014:
- Single Points of Entry (Budget: $2 million) - With the new focus created by SB 7026, the school board declared and approved the installation of security fencing as an emergency project. To date, all schools but five have security fencing completed
- Entry control systems (Budget $1.185 million)
- Camera systems (Budget: $3 million) -– Cameras allow sharing with law enforcement for all schools across the district
Volusia County Schools also applied for and received additional funding through the Security of School Buildings grant to improve overall security through access controls, cameras, and radio communications, among others.
4. Ongoing staff safety and security training
- Active threat response, incl. regular Code Red II lockdown drills
- Behavior detection
- Conflict resolution for campus advisors
- Cyber security
- Emergency management, incl. regular emergency drills for severe weather, fire and other hazards
- Food biosecurity
- Hazard communication
- Transportation security
- Annual Guardian SOPs and ESE training for security staff
5. Jessica Lunsford Act for district vendors and contractors
- Volusia County Schools Annual Safety & Security Report
- Office of Safe Schools
- Florida School Safety Risk Assessment Tool (FSSAT)
- MSDHS Public Safety Commission Report
- Jessica Lunsford Act
Where We are Now
Schoolyear 2018-2019 was a busy year as Volusia County Schools put in place policies, procedures, and infrastructure to comply with Senate Bill 7026 and Senate Bill 7030. The latter codified the recommendations of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission.
For schoolyear 2019-2020, the district continues to enhance its safety and security infrastructure.
- To date, 61 school guardians serve on staff, some of whom augment SROs and SRDs in middle schools and high schools.
- SROs and SRDs serve large high schools and middle schools
- Active use of the FortifyFL reporting app, promoted on every campus and installed on all district computers, website and devices.
- Use of the VOLO panic button app in all district computers and devices
- Continued investments in security fencing (single point of entry in all schools), access controls (storefronts, door locking bars), cameras, and visitor management systems, among others
- For the first time, a clear backpack policy in all athletic games
- Student ID badges for secondary schools
- Review and update of school board policies to incorporate the top 10 best practices identified by the MSDHS Public Safety Commission
This is just a brief overview of what the district has in place to date. For more of the district’s student and staff safety and security protocols, see also the following school board policies:
- Policy 208 Code of Student Conduct and Discipline (Elementary and Secondary)
- Policy 415 Conduct of Employees Regarding Illegal Drug or Alcohol Abuse
- Policy 418 Standards of Conduct
- Policy 510 Security of Students, Personnel and Property
- Policy 511 Safety of Facilities
- Policy 512 Chemical Material Safety
- Policy 520 Dating Violence and Abuse
- Policy 525 Policy Against Bullying and Harassment