Lee County Schools reviewed by state on its safety reporting

The School District of Lee County defended itself in front of the state during a meeting in Sunrise Monday.

The District shared its investigative findings to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, claiming no wrongdoing following allegations from a former assistant principal of a lack of reporting on safety incidents. Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, new policies have been instated regarding  suspicious behavior and school safety.

The commission reviewed the investigation, but it didn’t go much further.

Several members told us safety reporting is an issue that’s been on their radar in the face of Lee County’s investigation. The commission also discussed continuing to build and improve upon the system.

“A third party looked into the investigation and showed there was no wrongdoing on the part of schools of Lee County,” said David Newlan, the executive director of safety and security at Lee County Schools.

That was a summary by Newlan after sharing the newly released investigation into concerns about safety reporting and treatment of former assistant principal Peggy Slichter.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission chair, seemed satisfied with the report.

“The investigation appears to be comprehensive, well-reasoned, and it was objectively conducted by an outside law firm the district retained,” Gualtieri said. “Based on my review of the investigative packet, there’s nothing this commission needs to act on.”

Eric Hall, the Florida Department of Education senior chancellor, says the District has been a willing partner and hopes the safety reporting system and its partnerships will continue to evolve and improve.

“We’re going to continue to engage with the District,” Hall said. “The superintendent and their team have been cooperative throughout this process.”

“Collectively we’re continuing to work towards elevating school safety,” Hall said.

The education department is still looking into the allegations against Lee County Schools, and Slichter still has a pending lawsuit against the District.

The District says Slichter refused to be interviewed for its investigation. Her attorney told us they’re waiting for their day in court. The District does not have to respond to Slichter’s lawsuit until October.

At least one member wants to hear her side of the story before closing the book entirely.

“Obviously, we haven’t heard her side of the story yet,” said Max Schachter, a commission member. “So we want to find out if these allegations are true and correct.”

Schachter noted there are still potential improvements for SESIR, the School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting system.

“We want to make sure that there are checks and balances in place,” Schachter said. “I think one of the ways that we can do that is by making sure that teachers and administrators feel free to come forward.”

The commission is meeting again Tuesday. It will discuss the SESIR system further.

Reporter:Peter Fleischer
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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