Governor Ron DeSantis today filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to examine and review school safety measures throughout the state, as well as the responses of public entities to laws designed to protect schools such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
“As the one-year anniversary of one of the darkest days in Florida history approaches, it’s clear more needs to be done,” said Governor DeSantis. “What’s truly devastating is that the tragedy in Parkland was avoidable. As Governor, I have a moral obligation to protect the children in our state, which is why I have requested a statewide grand jury to investigate school safety practices and failures occurring around the state and to identify measures to improve the safety of our students.”
Photo Credit: Governor Ron DeSantis Press Office
In February 2018, mass murder was committed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This massacre drew attention to systematic failures by school officials and other state actors who should have ensured student safety. Unfortunately, these systematic failures are not unique to just one school district.
The grand jury investigation will examine districts across the state. The grand jury will investigate any crime or wrong within Florida Statute § 905.34 that relates to the following:
- Whether refusal or failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, results in unnecessary and avoidable risk to students across the state;
- Whether public entities committed – and continue to commit – fraud and deceit by accepting state funds conditioned on implementation of certain safety measures while knowingly failing to act;
- Whether school officials committed – and continue to commit – fraud and deceit by mismanaging, failing to use, and diverting funds from multi-million-dollar bonds specifically solicited for school safety initiatives; and
- Whether school officials violated – and continue to violate – state law by systematically underreporting incidents of criminal activity to the Florida Department of Education.
After the Florida Supreme Court approves the Governor’s request, Chief Justice Charles Canady will designate a circuit judge to preside over the grand jury. The presiding judge shall, by lot and at random, select and impanel the 18-member statewide grand jury from the jury lists of circuits he designates. Because the grand jury’s investigation will reach issues connected to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Governor has proposed the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit (Broward County) as the base operating area.
Pursuant to Florida Statues § 905.33 and § 905.34, the jurisdiction of the statewide grand jury shall extend throughout the state to investigate crimes, return indictments, make presentments or direct issuance of reports, and otherwise perform all functions of a statewide grand jury with regard to the full list of offenses enumerated in Florida Statute § 905.34.