One year later: Miami-Dade schools committed to safety and security

miami dade public schools headquarters

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has been steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its students, employees, and visitors.

For years, the District has invested in enhancing school safety through school police, infrastructure improvements, and personnel training and development aimed at averting potential tragedy.

New measures initiated after Parkland school tragedy

Immediately following the unspeakable act of violence committed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018, the District initiated the process of reviewing safety protocols and identifying opportunities for improvement. This review was comprehensive in nature, spanning school-based operations to communication methods, and facilities infrastructure to human capital needs. Over the last 11 months, a multipronged system of safeguards has been deployed to ensure that the District’s schools remain safe spaces for creativity and learning. Following are some of the most significant actions taken by M-DCPS: 

 

Facilities:

  • locked classroom doors during the school day so that anyone seeking to gain entry will be required to have a key or knock.
  • reduction in the points of entry to school sites for employees, students and visitors.
  • designation of hard corners at school sites. Process will be completed by the end of February 2019.
  • perimeter fencing of school sites are regularly checked and inspected. Procedures are in place that elevate all work order requests for perimeter fencing, classroom and exterior door lock repairs to critical incident status.
  • mandatory identification badges for all school-site personnel and all students in secondary schools.
  • new security signage was installed at schools directing visitors to the main entry point.
  • “Raptor” visitor management system (VMS), which year-to-date has screened 1.2 million registered visitors to school sites and facilities.
  • installation of security cameras in 102 schools, bringing the total camera count to more than 15,000 Districtwide.
  • 105 public address systems (PAs) have been upgraded and an additional 66 upgrades are currently in progress allowing for quick, clear schoolwide and exterior area communication. 

 

Police:

  • a professional law enforcement officer assigned to every M-DCPS school location, through the establishment of Memorandums of Understanding with 18 police agencies to augment our police force.
  • 68 new officers hired in less than a year through an aggressive hiring campaign by Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (M-DSPD).
  • the passage of Proposition #362 provides increased funding to hire an even greater number of officers, with the eventual goal of placing our own M-DSPD school resource officers at every M-DCPS school.
  • newly created Police Command Center (PCC), which serves as the nucleus of the M-DSPD’s intelligence-led policing strategy, greatly improving the ability to identify, assess, and respond to threats.
  • from the command center, police can view cameras real-time and monitor the Raptor VMS and ShotSpotter technology, a military grade ballistic-identifying software.
  • the establishment of redundant and failsafe notification mechanisms for critical incidents.
  • expansion of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.
  • updated M-DSPD Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to provide clear language related to how police officers are to move forward in the event of an active assailant incident. 

 

Training:

  • regular emergency drills are carried out at all school locations, including scenarios for Active Shooter, Bomb Threats and Hostage Situations. One of these scenarios is executed monthly, on a rotating basis and is documented accordingly.
  • enhanced and systemic training of personnel and students.
  • appropriate training for school-site staff ofhostage situations, bomb threats and active shooters.
  • school-site personnel also have received directives regarding the mandatory use of the VMS and implementation of the “challenge and check system.”  This practice directs faculty and staff to stop all unknown individuals NOT wearing staff, student or visitor’s identification. These individuals are escorted to the designated Access/Entry point for proper screening. 

Mental Health:

 

  • The Department of Mental Health Services was created in July.
  • 30 Mental Health Coordinators were hired to identify and assist students who may be at-risk of or suffering from mental health or emotional issues.
  • a number of contracts entered into with community agencies for mental health screening/assessment, individual and group counseling, family counseling, substance abuse intervention, teacher/parent consultation and case management
  • mental wellness programs infused into the curriculum for preventative and awareness measures including anti-bullying, sensitivity training and creating a culture of respect
  • professional development provided for administration, faculty and staff on topics that include: Progression of Mental Health Services/Support, Multi-Tiered System of Support, and Youth Mental Health First Aid. 
  • partnerships created with universities such as Florida International University and organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to bring added prevention and awareness programs into schools to inform students and parents of the many services available for students and to work to erase the stigma often associated with mental illness.
  • Threat Assessment Team established at each school to assess student threats
  • Mental Health Team established to support students with both school and community-based services to meet their specific needs.
  • increased student and staff awareness/education of early warning behavior signs.

 

 

Communications:

  • enhanced communications outreach, including text messages, to parents and employees during emergency situations.
  • use of social media to raise awareness of the“See Something, Say Something” initiative using the hashtags #SeeSomethingSaySomething and #SafetyFirstMDCPS
  • increased outreach to promote social media responsibility using the hashtag #ThinkBeforeYouPost

 

 

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