More than a year after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., public officials are wrestling with who to blame. Some fault has fallen to law enforcement agencies, and controversies swirl around decisions made by school employees and administrators before and after the tragedy. A grand jury is examining school officials’ compliance with safety laws statewide. It’s the first of its kind in the U.S. – an investigation that could result in criminal indictments, policy recommendations, or both, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The grand jury is tasked with examining whether school leaders failed to report serious crimes to the state’s department of education and if they committed fraud or mismanaged funds set aside for safety improvements. While much of the national dialogue has focused on gun policy, the Florida probe puts the spotlight on individual accountability. It raises questions about what school and district leaders are expected to do to keep students safe, and what should happen if they don’t.
A process that threatens criminal penalties for school officials could serve as a needed wake-up call nationwide. Or it could be an unnecessary hammer coming down on an already high-pressure profession, in which some educators have put themselves in the line of fire to protect their students. School safety consultant Dale Yeager applauds Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for calling for the grand jury, which the Florida Supreme Court approved Feb. 25. “I’ve seen the death and destruction caused by a preventable crime,” Yeager says. After analyzing school shootings and safety practices for more than two decades, he says too many school administrators are not doing their jobs the way they should. “It’s uncharted waters for school leaders,” says Joseph Erardi of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and superintendent in Newtown, Ct., from 2014 to 2017.