SCHOOL SHOOTING: School districts try to reassure parents

By Julie Gargotta, Erin Murray, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 11:04 PM EST

On the heels of Wednesday’s shooting in South Florida, security experts are calling on leaders, law enforcement, schools and parents to do more.

“I think we can do better as a community and as leaders," said James Copenhaver, a security expert and former sheriff’s detective. “I doubt these are going to stop. I don’t think this will be the last mass shooting in a school.”

Copenhaver said that it’s time to act: parents need to sit down with children, law enforcement need to continue training and tips need to be shared.

“I’m suggesting that our leaders, schools and cops need to form some sort of intelligence unit, to where they’re proactively digging into backgrounds and proactively researching social media," he suggested. “What’s missing is the pre-indicators that lead up to these active shooters. We say, 'If you see something, say something.' It’s becoming a joke because no one’s saying stuff."

Orange County Public Schools said that a crisis was averted Thursday morning due to people sharing information proactively.

School resource officers at Lake Nona High School found a replica firearm, a BB gun, along with 24 CO2 cylinders, ammunition and a pocket knife in a sophomore’s backpack after 7 a.m., and charged the student with a felony.


As students filed back to class Thursday, school districts around Central Florida began reviewing safety protocol.


Seminole County said they’ll keep doing Code Red drills at schools and working with the sheriff’s office.

Statement from Seminole County superintendent Walt Griffin:

"In the wake of yesterday’s senseless tragedy in South Florida, I want to ensure you that the number one priority of Seminole County Public Schools remains to create a safe learning environment for all our students, faculty and staff.

"Unfortunately, mass shootings involving public venues have become a sad reality and an all too frequent occurrence for our nation to tolerate. To that end, school districts, including our own, continue to prepare for the worse by doing Code Red Drills at all our schools multiple times each school year. I value the close working relationship we have with our Sheriff’s Department and local police agencies.

"Additionally, I want to thank our School Board for supporting and funding dedicated School Resources Officers at all our schools district-wide; for making a panic button app available to all our faculty and staff; and we continue to encourage all our students to follow the mantra that if they see something, to say something.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families impacted by the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. We applaud Broward County Schools and local law enforcement for their rapid response.
It’s time to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH. It’s time for constructive dialogue and more importantly thoughtful action to end the violence.

"All of us must be part of the solution; from our students, families, faculty and staff; to our local law enforcement partners, mental health counselors, and elected officials.

"At the end of the day, every one of us has the power to do something and doing something together is powerful."


On top of current security measures, OCPS is adding more surveillance, increasing random weapon screenings, and even reconsidering metal detectors at schools.

But they admit, even with those measures no school district will ever be completely immune from an attack.

“I am a father myself with two children in Orange County Public Schools, and I sent both of my children to school today, and we also want our community to know that our schools are as safe as we can possibly make them,” said School Board Chairman Bill Sublette.  

School safety is easily a top priority for OCPS, it’s why standing with school officials Thursday were members of the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff's office, and the school district chief of police.

“One gun is too many in our schools. I don’t care if it is a toy gun, a bb gun, a pellet gun, or needless to say a firearm. One gun is too many. Don’t bring them to school. You are facing a felony if you bring a weapon to school,” said Chief Bryan Holmes, OCPS Police.  

But even a day after the Parkland shooting, a Lakeview Middle schooler allegedly cut another student with a steak knife. At Lake Nona High, a 17 year-old was arrested for bringing a BB gun on campus. The Lake Nona teen was caught ahead of time, because a student used the “see something, say something” rule and reported him.

In light of all of this, school officials and law enforcement are asking for a security partnership with parents.

“You ought to know what is in your child’s backpacks, don’t be afraid to be a parent and look into those backpacks and help us to keep our children, your children safe,” said Sheriff Jerry Demings.  

There are multiple ways to report something and even stay anonymous.



Brevard County said that their focus across the district is to support students and staff in a time of shock, mentioning that they’ll take steps to improve security.

"Students and parents should speak up immediately if they notice threatening or scary behavior," said Superintendent Dr. Desmond Blackburn. "We urge students to share concerns with trusted adults, peers, resource officers or the anonymous SpeakOut Hotline at 800-423-TIPS (8477). "

Sheriff Wayne Ivey also issued a statement, saying the sheriff's office was working closely with the school district to keep people safe.


Flagler Schools providing specific tips from the National Association of School Psychologists for helping children deal, from straightforward explanations to listening and observing. You can find them on the school district's website. 


Volusia Schools called the shooting a “stark reminder of the importance of safety procedures” and their check-in and screening processes.” They told News 13 that they have "substantial and confidential safety measures" in place for their district, and have asked law enforcement for additional surveillance at schools.

The superintendent is sending a message home to families and are posting a statement on their website, according to the district.

It includes this statement:

This event is a stark reminder of the importance of our safety procedures and our check-in and screening processes for all visitors. Parents, please help us by talking to your student about the importance of safety, and if they see something suspicious or out of the ordinary to immediately say something to a trusted adult. Our hearts go out everyone impacted by this senseless violence.


Osceola County said that they do not discuss "specific safety and security measures that are being put into place so that someone with ill intent doesn’t work around them," sharing the following message on their social media channels:

"With the tragedy that took place in Broward County today, the School Board members and I want you to know that the Osceola County School District keeps student safety at top priority. We have thoughtful and specific measures in place for the safety of all students and staff across the district. Our strong partnerships with local law enforcement agencies help ensure safe learning and working environments.

"If you have children who are upset in light of this event, please reassure them they are safe in our schools and encourage them to speak to our school counselors if needed.

"We want to remind everyone to report any suspicious behavior because the best safety measure we have in our control is open and honest communication. If you see something or hear something, say something. Caring adults in the Osceola County School District are ready to listen and respond."


Lake County Schools told us today that they have many security measures in place, including drills and exercises, school resources officers, single points of entry, a computer-based check-in system, security cameras and coordinated responses with local law enforcement.  

"We are always looking at ways to improve," said Sherri Owens, the district's communications officer. "We will re-examine our procedures in light of what we learn from this tragedy and make changes as needed to ensure a safe learning and working environment in our schools." 

Superintendent Diane Kornegay sent a message to parents Thursday morning, which you can read on the school district's website.

We are still waiting for information from Marion and Sumter counties.