PCS NEWS
Back to School Safety Letter to Parents

This post was published on 08/07/2019.

Dear Parents,

Summer vacation is wrapping up and it is time for our children to head off to school once again. Keeping our community’s children safe and working together to maintain the safest environment for our students and staff is our top priority. School safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now.  In the wake of the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, the Florida Legislature passed the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. This law outlines significant reforms to help make our schools safer.

Some of these new provisions include:

  • Requirements for student mental health services and staff training,
  • Requirements for a safe-school officer at each public school,
  • Requiring school safety assessments for each public school, and
  • Development of a standardized threat assessment instrument.

There also are laws centered around making threats against schools or students (whether serious or joking) and the inappropriate use of social media.  Parents should become familiar with these new laws and have conversations with children about their seriousness and the potential life-altering consequences for violating them.

We frequently see young people posting things on social media that others can interpret as threats. This type of post – pictures of kids with guns or other weapons, text or video indicating the intent to commit an act of violence - is illegal (whether it was a joke or not) and carries with it the potential to seriously jeopardize your child’s future. We often see similar threats scribbled on school walls or furniture, perhaps to be funny; they carry the same penalty. Pasco Schools and local law enforcement take every threat seriously, and any person making such a threat will be held accountable for their actions. These actions cause a huge disruption to education, they instill fear, and they have no place in our schools.

So, please encourage your children not to share social media posts of guns or comments about shooting up a school.  Anyone who sees a Snapchat photo of someone posing with a gun, or making a threat, should take a screen shot and send it immediately to the sheriff’s office or local police department.  They all have Facebook pages and web sites that accept anonymous tips. 

Encourage your student to report information about any unsafe, harmful, dangerous, or criminal activities or threats to a responsible adult immediately. Some children may not like to report crime, suspicious incidents, or concerning behavior because they do not want to be a labeled a “snitch” or get someone in trouble.  Remind your children that it is not snitching if they are trying to keep someone from getting hurt.  Reporting a threat is about preventing people from being hurt.  Students have prevented a shooting by reporting a threat – and no one has called them snitches.

 

How can my student report a concern?

In an emergency where help is needed immediately always call 9-1-1 first for help right away!

Pasco County Schools has a Student Crime Watch Program that provides several ways for students to report concerns about safety. We encourage students to reach out to a trusted adult.  This could be a parent or someone at school such as the principal, teacher, school counselor, SRO or school safety guard, or other staff member they trust.

If a student or someone they know is being bullied, they can report it anonymously by clicking on the Anti-Bullying Together We Stand link on any school’s website. 

If they are experiencing a crisis that can’t wait until the next time they see a trusted adult, students can text “CONNECT” to 741741 and someone will reach out to them immediately.

*NEW – FortifyFL - https://getfortifyfl.com/  This is Florida’s new website and smart-phone app for reporting suspicious activity.  Tips go directly to the police and school safety officials to investigate. FortifyFL is only for reporting possible criminal or dangerous activity. This tool was developed with student safety and security in mind. It is illegal to make a false report of criminal activity to a law enforcement agency (whether or not it is meant as a joke).

Campus Crime Stoppers allows anonymous reports to be made by calling 1-800-873-TIPS(8477) or entering information at http://www.crimestopperstb.com.  Reports that lead to an arrest may be eligible for a reward.

Below are some school safety laws that carry serious consequences that every parent should know about:

  1. FS 836.10Written threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism. This is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. This is typically charged in cases where good kids made bad decisions and posted something on social media depicting or insinuating violence against a person or a school.  
    • This law pertains to ANY threats written in a letter, an inscribed communication, or any electronic communication, whether signed or anonymous.
    • It applies to any person who makes, posts, or transmits a threat in a written or other record, including an electronic record, to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat.

 

  1. FS 790.163 & FS 790.164 – “It was just a joke!” Crime of making threats of terror or violence.   This law prohibits making false reports concerning planting a bomb, explosive, or weapon of mass destruction. It also now makes it illegal to make a false report (joking around) concerning the use of a firearm in a violent manner against any person or persons.  This, too, is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

 

  1. FS 790.115 – Possession of a deadly weapon on school property.  It is against the law for any unauthorized person to carry a weapon onto school grounds, at a school-sponsored event or on the grounds or facilities of any school, school bus, or school bus stop, or within 1,000 feet of a school. The term weapon has a very broad application; it includes, but is not limited to, a firearm, a BB gun, any sword, electric weapon or device, destructive device, razor blade, box cutter, or knife.  

 

  1. FS 316.305 – Wireless communications devices. Florida has a new distracted driving law that bans the use of handheld wireless communications devices in school and construction zones. The law also makes texting and driving a primary offense, meaning police can stop a motorist specifically for texting. When driving on any Florida roadway it is now illegal to manually type or enter data, to send or receive texts and emails, send instant messages, or connect to the internet.

Keeping our schools safe is everyone’s responsibility.  By being a part of our Pasco County Schools family you are already an important member of our Student Crime Watch Program; remember, if you see something, say something!  Have a GREAT school year!

Helpful Links

Contact Us!