Senate Committee Examines School Safety Practices
On July 25, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing titled “Examining State and Federal Recommendations for Enhancing School Safety Against Targeted Violence”. Among other topics, the committee examined emerging state and local efforts to use student data to promote school safety. The hearing was prompted, in part, by the plans enacted in Florida following the Parkland tragedy, including implementation of a statewide school safety database. In 2018, Florida lawmakers approved a new law placing notable new requirements on school districts, including an obligation to share a vast array of sensitive, personally identifiable student data with law enforcement and state agencies. Responding to an inquiry by Education Week, the Florida Department of Education (FDE) said that covered data could include students’ course schedules, participating in scholarship and dropout-prevention programs, past homeless status, immunization status, and even the Individualized Education Plans of students in special education. The new law requires FDE to coordinate with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create “a centralized integrated [student] data repository” and data analytics resource. The student data repository’s purpose is to help leaders make decisions about students that may pose a public safety threat. By law, the database must include – but is not limited to – “timely, complete, and accurate information” about students from social media, the Florida Department of Children and Families, FDE, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and local law enforcement. More information about the hearing, including access to the archived webcast of the proceeding, is available here.