Southwest Florida school officials reassure parents children are safe following Uvalde shooting

Published: May 25, 2022 12:04 PM EDT
Updated: May 26, 2022 7:19 AM EDT

Some parents in Texas are coming to terms with the fact that they will never hug their children again after a gunman stormed a school in Uvalde, Texas.

In Southwest Florida, school officials want to reassure parents that their children are safe at school. The state demanded changes in safety and security after the Parkland shooting in 2018, but with every new shooting comes another opportunity to see if we are doing enough.

While the shooting happened in Uvalde, Texas, it could happen anywhere, including in Southwest Florida. And that reality hit hard for one mother.

“I plan on keeping him out of school for the rest of the year,” she said.

One woman whose grandchild attends East Lee County High School is upset because she asked administrators to use the restroom on Wednesday morning and no one asked her for ID or checked her bag.

“I lived near Newtown; I was right over the border of Connecticut so it really hit home for me,” said Jan Doss. “She said why would I want to look at it? I said because 19 kids got killed yesterday. You don’t check people when they go through a locked door?”

In an email, the school district said Doss never had access to campus, just the front office.

WINK News asked a school spokesman how Doss was able to get in without showing her ID but they never answered the question.

With everything that has happened, Doss says she wants to see additional security measures like metal detectors.

“I’m not trying to be confrontational or anything, but I have a child in there,” Doss said.

In a new conference on Wednesday, Lee County Schools Superintendent Chris Bernier tried to reassure parents their children are safe.

“Our parents rest assured we’re doing everything to ensure the safe learning environment every child and parents deserve,” Bernier said.

Bernier says his security team will study what happened to those students in Texas and do everything in their power to keep that from happening here.

“Use the information from this incident to look at all of our protocols and make the necessary improvements,” Bernier said.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said threats on social media should be immediately reported so they can be acted on.

He also threatened any would-be school shooters with death.

“If you come into our schools with deadly force, we’re gonna kill you,” Marceno said.

Marceno said he also supports the guardian program, which some school districts have adopted. The program allows some school personnel to be armed with guns, including teachers.

But Marceno added that he doesn’t want to replace the school resource program, where deputies are placed in schools.

“The more good people on our team, the more eyes and ears, the more people who want to protect our children, that are properly trained, the better,” Marceno said.

Mike Riley, the spokesman for the Charlotte County School District, reassured parents.

“Your child’s life is the most precious and valuable thing. And I’m sure it’s something anything that happens, the staff, the teachers, the custodians, the cafeteria clothes, they’re going to be there for your child,” Riley said.

Steve Dionisio, superintendent of Charlotte County Public Schools, sent this email statement to parents:

“First, let me say our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members, school district and community of this horrible tragedy. If the community of Uvalde, Texas needs anything from the Charlotte County Community to help them get through this tragedy, we stand ready to help.

Charlotte County has done many things to try to make our children and staff as safe as possible. Below are just a few of the examples of things CCPS has implemented:

  • Active Assailant One Button Lock Down System
  • 6 Foot Fencing with Electronic Gates at All K-12 Schools
  • New Surveillance Video Cameras (With 24/7 Law Enforcement Access)
  • A-1 Phone System at School Access Points (Front Door and Front Gate)
  • Panic Buttons
  • Outside Key Boxes for Local Law Enforcement
  • Single Point of Entry to All Schools
  • All Classroom Doors Lock from The Inside
  • All Exterior and Interior Doors Locked at All Times
  • Code Red / Active Assailant Monthly Drills led by Local Law Enforcement
  • Designated Safest Areas in Classrooms
  • Crisis Plan Reviews Annually
  • School Based Threat Assessment Teams
  • Fortify Florida Reporting App
  • Raptor Active Assailant Notification App (Alyssa’s Law)
  • Instant Reporting of Suspicious Activity to Law Enforcement & SchoolOfficials
  • Mandatory ID badges For All staff
  • Mandatory ID badges For All High School Students
  • School Resource Officer at Every School with Two at Every High School and our Largest
  • Middle School
  • Two School Security Monitors at Every High School
  • One School Security Monitor at Every Middle School
  • Deans of Discipline at our Largest Middle School and all High Schools
  • Additional Social Workers
  • Additional Psychologists
  • Additional Guidance Counselors”

Collier County Schools declined an interview request but in an emailed statement, they said they empathize with the tragedy in Texas.

“Violent acts have no place on a school campus,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, CCPS Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton spoke directly with Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk regarding school campus security.

“We are thankful for our partnership with local law enforcement — Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Naples Police Department, and Marco Island Police Department — to assign youth relations deputies on our school campuses for more than 40 years. Law enforcement personnel are on our 50-plus campuses all day, every day,” according to the statement.

Also on Wednesday, Collier County school district leaders met with all school-based leaders – principals and assistant principals – to discuss many topics, including school safety, during this final stretch of the school year.

“We take a layered approach to reduce the chance of dangerous situations at our schools and district buildings,” according to the statement.

Here are some of the layers in place:

  • Law enforcement personnel are on our campuses all day, every day
  • We operate single points of entry at all schools
  • We installed video doorbells to allow front doors to remain locked at all schools
  • Classroom doors remain locked
  • Classroom door windows are covered
  • We assess every single classroom in conjunction with law enforcement
  • All staff have the ability to call for a lockdown
  • Students at all schools have ID badges
  • We have school threat assessment teams at every school
  • Backpacks and large bags aren’t allowed at athletic events
  • All first responders have key access to our campuses during an emergency

Marceno said if any parent sees something they don’t like, they can email him to his personal email at [email protected]

Watch the news conference again in the player below or click here.