Bay Area schools meet or exceed new safety standards

Following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, the state of Florida rewrote the law on school safety.

"From where we were in February of 2018 until now, there's been a huge, huge difference," said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Now, schools are required to have armed guardians or law enforcement on every campus at all times, implement threat assessment teams designed to spot warning signs before it's too late, and increase active shooter training drills.

"We want to provide support to the local school districts so they can have as safe of an environment as possible," said DeSantis.

But some districts in the Bay Area are taking it even farther, using a crisis alert system that teachers can access from their phones. It notifies law enforcement immediately.

"It empowers them with the knowledge to know how to react and during an incident, we can feed intelligence through those avenues as well," said Lt. Troy Fergueson, the resources officer with Pasco County Schools, one of the districts that have implemented the new system.

Districts like Polk, Pasco and Highlands have spent thousands of dollars to add more secure locks, fencing and gates.

The Hillsborough and Hernando districts even renovated some of their older schools to create single and secure points of entry for visitors.

"When the state said 'you will look at every vulnerability on every campus,' we started taking a critical look at our schools and this is what we came up with," said Chief John Newman with Hillsborough County Schools' security and emergency management, referring to a newly built vestibule at Hillsborough High School.

In Sarasota and Citrus counties, the school boards even created their own police force.

"As a school police officer we want to use every single tool we have available in order to try to prevent that kind of conflict," said Chief Tim Enos with the Sarasota County Schools Police Department.

And Pinellas County is leading the charge in encouraging increased mental health resources for their students and staff.

"We need to do more as far as mental health is concerned and look and have that discussion," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

All Bay Area schools confirmed that they are in compliance with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act.