The Pasco County School Board held a closed-door session on Oct. 3 to discuss the district’s security risk assessment and actions to improve safety in the district schools.
Annual assessments of safety on each school campus must be completed by Oct. 1, under Florida law requiring school safety plans.
The law was adopted after 17 people were killed and 17 were injured in the 2018 Valentine’s Day shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland.
Those shootings spurred a public outcry and persistent student protests. Ultimately, state legislators mandated a series of new steps intended to reduce threats on campuses across Florida.
The state law also requires that every three years, local school districts must conduct the annual risk assessments in consultation with local law enforcement, fire and emergency management.
The school board held a workshop to discuss findings of those assessments and suggested actions before its regular meeting on Oct. 3.
The meeting was closed due to the sensitive nature of security issues.
At the board’s regular meeting, Michael Baumaister, the school district’s chief of safety and emergency operations, reported: “This year we conducted public safety tours with our partners from the sheriff’s office, fire and emergency management.”
“We reviewed every school.
“Our walk-throughs did identify some areas, small areas, that we can improve upon and we’re making those improvements,” he said.
The security chief also noted that the district’s security efforts are widespread.
“We collaborate with a lot of different departments, not just the schools themselves, but we do reach out to the sheriff’s office, some of our municipal agencies, and within our school district,” he said.
The collaborations also include working with various departments within the school district, such as the facilities, construction and planning teams, as well as others, he said.
“School security is not just my job. It’s everybody’s job. We have an obligation to be part of it,” the safety expert said.
Baumaister thanked the school board for its level of funding support to enhance school safety. He said that’s not true in every school district.
“Most of our recommendations are just to continue what we’ve been doing,” he said.
He asked for the board’s continued support.
“Keep us funded where we need to be, so we can keep moving forward and be where we need to be,” Baumaister said.
“I don’t think there’s ever a sunset on school safety. I think school safety always has to be at the forefront and we always need to continue moving forward.
“Even if you think your school is as safe as it could be, there’s probably other things you can do to make it safer,” he said.
He also noted: “We have to keep that balance, to keep our schools (as) education centers, not prisons.”
Published October 11, 2023