Lee County school district leaders finalize plans to keep your kids safe

Reporter: Sara Girard
Published: Updated:
School District of Lee County board members in early 2018. Photo via WINK News.
School District of Lee County board members in early 2018. Photo via WINK News.

The Lee County school board went over lots of fine print in their policy making, covering sign-in procedures, crime on campus, and fire safety.

But the hottest topic has been how the district will address school threats.

In wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, the state legislature passed a law requiring all schools form threat assessment teams in every school.

Lee County school psychologist Natasha Gorman is part of those teams, and she says the district is constantly working on ways to improve their threat assessment teams.

The goal is to recognize and address mental health concerns in students with hopes to prevent violence.

“We’ve had to bring in the team together to assess and determine the severity of it, whether it’s more risk, moderate risk or high risk,” Gorman said.

She says they have learned a lot in year one, and before the upcoming school year starts they’ll undergo even more training.

“You know we all have different roles and we have so many different things that we do,” Gorman said. “And so we’re trying to meet more often.”

Late Tuesday afternoon school leaders broke down their new policies addressing what is considered a threat, specifically adding to the policy the threat of a shooting, and potential punishments for them.

The zero-tolerance policy, also put in place by the state lawmakers, allows for some flexibility.

Instead of automatic expulsion, threat assessment teams can suggest alternative punishments based on the offense. The team will also consult with police when it feels a student is showing “a pattern” of troubling behavior.

Gorman says they are looking at the type of threat and at the victim.

“We’re looking at the plan if there is a plan, whether or not the individual has access to weapons, the motive, the perceptions,” Gorman said.

During the 2018-19 school year, threats came all too often, especially around the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting.

A written threat on a bathroom wall at Mariner High School was one of many threatening to shoot up the school.

But law enforcement’s motto will remain the same this school year: “Fake threats mean real consequences.”

“It’s very unfortunate that they would think this was funny or a joke,” Cape Coral Police Dept. Master Sgt. Allan Kolak said. “And we hope that this does not happen again next year.”

The school board also added a line to its policy on monthly lockdown active shooter drills.

Now, they must make sure the drills are developmentally and age appropriate.

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