Florida Enacts Bill to “Harden” Schools Against Attacks

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping $400 million bill to increase school security, mental health access and gun control in the aftermath of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students. The legislation includes provisions to put more bullet-resistant glass, steel doors and automatic locking devices into schools.

Of the $400 million earmarked for school safety, $99 million is specifically for “hardening” the infrastructure of educational buildings. These improvements will be added on top of Florida’s hurricane codes, which may have saved lives during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

According to several media reports, the shooter tried to blast out windows in a third-floor teachers’ lounge to create a sniper’s nest and target students who were fleeing the carnage. However, the impact-rated glass didn’t break, even after 16 shots with an AR-15. The shooter reloaded, but his gun jammed. He then dropped the weapon and went downstairs, where he blended in with other fleeing students and escaped. He was captured a short time later.

That part of the high school was renovated in 2008, according to Requel L. Bell, a spokesperson with Broward County Schools. She told USGNN.com™ in an e-mail that Pirtle Construction was the contractor on the job, and that the glass was supplied by Superior. (The company that manufactured the glass is unknown.)

Pirtle is a major school construction contractor in South Florida. Superior is no longer in business, according to Bell.

The security steps that Broward County’s public schools are taking match those private schools in the county have been using, according to a recent article in the Palm Beach Post.

For example, Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches, a private high school in West Palm Beach, has a feature that allows a school security official to remotely lock all exterior building doors, including the main entrance.

Impact-rated glass is a crucial feature cited by Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who founded The Greene School in West Palm Beach. The school has a new building with a single point of entry and hurricane glass, Greene told the newspaper.

And schools in Auburn, Ala., might be adding security film to their interior glass walls to make them safer, according to the Opelika-Auburn News.

“It’s my understanding there’s something now that you can put on those glass walls that will make them — I won’t say bullet-proof because nothing is really bullet-proof — will make them bullet-resistant,” Auburn City Council member Tommy Dawson said. “The Board of Education is looking into purchasing that … that is my understanding now.”

On the federal level, Door Security + Safety Professionals and the Door Security + Safety Foundation (DSSF) announced on Monday that they strongly support the federal STOP School Violence Act legislation (S. 2475) to help schools and communities stop violence before it happens by providing resources focused on early intervention and school safety infrastructure. The Student, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (the STOP School Violence Act) would reauthorize and amend the 2001-2009 bipartisan Secure Our Schools Act to offer Department of Justice (DOJ) grants to states, ultimately helping schools implement proven, evidence-based programs and technologies that stop school violence before it happens. That would include bullet-resistant glass and better locking systems.

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