FORT WALTON BEACH — One of the many safety measures school districts must implement to protect school children under a new Florida law is putting fencing up around their schools.
Many schools across Northwest Florida plan to spend millions of dollars to meet all the safety requirements, including fencing, this summer and during the upcoming year. The state does offset some of these costs.
Florida lawmakers passed strict measures after one of the deadliest school shootings in Amercian history when 17 students were gunned down and 17 others were wounded at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
The Okaloosa County School District plans to invest in safety by diverting money from other needs, such as roof repairs.
“Some measures will be visible while others will not,” said Steve Horton, an assistant superintendent. “We are working to make all schools safer for students and employees. Fencing is just one visible component of that process.”
Horton wouldn’t reveal whether Okaloosa would use chain link fencing or another type.
Different school districts plan to implement the safety measures, such as fencing, in different ways.
Charlie Morse, safety director for the Walton County School District, said two schools this summer will get fencing but, "We don’t want it to look like a correctional facility.”
Amanda Thompson, a parent of an Okaloosa County student, scoffed at spending money to installing fences, especially chain link. She said students are primarily responsible for school shootings, so they will already be inside the school. Also, bullets can fly through chain link and fencing traps students on the campus.
“I just don’t feel like we’re Chicago,” Thompson said. “It bothers me that we don’t have funds for kids’ school books or teachers’ raises. That’s what we should be focusing on.”
The Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School Safety Commission was formed to make proposals to lawmakers. Most of the safety steps became law in May. The commission formed in 2018 will continue to meet and make recommendations for several more years.