Recent reports have revealed the existence of Broward County’s “Promise Program“, first begun in 2013, whereby Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, Sheriff Scott Israel, the Chief Judge of the Judicial Court, the State’s Attorney, the Public Defender, local police departments and the NAACP entered into a “Collaborative Agreement” to statistically reduce juvenile recrimination by simply covering it up within the public school system. This program evolved on the heels of a similar program initiated circa 2012 by Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, whose school district and police department also covered up student juvenile crime simply to improve his school district’s statistics. (See B&B’s “Did Superintendent Patton Import a Cover-Up Policy from Miami-Dade” 2/20/2018″).
These “Promise”-type programs rely upon the ability of a county’s local school district and law enforcement to work hand-in-hand to cover up student criminal activity, transforming crimes into lesser school punishments that remain publicly undisclosed by virtue of student privacy laws.
In 2012, an opportunity to eliminate Florida State regulations in the area of crime and school safety fell into the lap of Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Such programs work best if any state-mandated oversight or reporting requirements of school districts can be eliminated. In 2012, an opportunity to eliminate Florida State regulations in the area of crime reporting and school safety fell into the lap of Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie.
In September 2012, Florida Governor Rick Scott attended the Fall meeting of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS). Governor Scott was reportedly struck by the concept that the state might eliminate excess public school regulation in order to increase school districts’ focus on classroom learning. “He had just finished his tour with teachers and he sort of started the discussion that excessive regulations didn’t add value to what was happening in the classroom.”
At its core, Governor Scott’s concept was laudable. Governor Scott appointed a task force comprised of seven (7) Florida district superintendents, including Runcie, to report back to the Governor on what excessive regulations might be cut to achieve greater focus on classroom learning.
Runcie and the other 6 superintendents got busy formulating regulations to be cut. One on the short list: Repeal Florida’s “Statewide School Safety Hotline” as codified at Fla. Stat. 1006.141.
The “Statewide School Safety Hotline” statute, first enacted in 1995, authorized the creation of a toll-free safety hotline through the Florida Sheriff’s Association, “for the purpose of reporting incidents that affect the safety and well-being of the school’s population…..The toll-free school safety hotline is to be a conduit for any person to anonymously report activity that affects the safety and well-being of the school’s population.”
1006.141 Statewide school safety hotline.— (CIRCA 2012 – NOW REPEALED):
(1) The department may contract with the Florida Sheriffs Association to establish and operate a statewide toll-free school safety hotline for the purpose of reporting incidents that affect the safety and well-being of the school’s population.
(2) The toll-free school safety hotline is to be a conduit for any person to anonymously report activity that affects the safety and well-being of the school’s population.
(3) There may not be an award or monetary benefit for reporting an incident through the toll-free school safety hotline.
(4) The toll-free school safety hotline shall be operated in a manner that ensures that a designated school official is notified of a complaint received through the hotline if the complaint concerns that school. A complaint that concerns an actionable offense must be reported to the designated official within a reasonable time after the complaint is made. An actionable offense is an incident that could directly affect the safety or well-being of a person or property within a school.
(5) If a toll-free school safety hotline is established by contract with the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association shall produce a quarterly report that evaluates the incidents that have been reported to the hotline. This information may be used to evaluate future school safety educational needs and the need for prevention programs as the district school board considers necessary.
The statute also provided that the Florida Sheriff’s Association would produce a quarterly report that evaluates the incidents that have been reported to the hotline, and then use the information “to evaluate future school safety educational needs and the need for prevention programs as the district school board considers necessary.”
Runcie’s task force recommendation on the Florida’s Statewide School Safety Hotline: “Repeal. Concerns should be reported to local law enforcement or local school officials.”
Runcie’s task force recommendation on the Florida’s Statewide School Safety Hotline was to “Repeal. Concerns should be reported to local law enforcement or local school officials.”
The elimination of the Statewide School Safety Hotline would be convenient to the likes of Superintendents Runcie and Carvalho, whose “Promise”-type programs were designed to sugarcoat any “reporting” of juvenile delinquency by orchestration between the local sheriff and local school officials. In other words, bury the wrongdoing. What better way to sweep student recrimination under the rug than to eliminate laws designed to provide for state oversight of local school safety efforts.
Keep in mind — Runcie’s proposed repeal of the “Statewide School Safety Hotline” would do little to achieve Governor Scott’s intent to eliminate regulations that took away from classroom teaching and learning. After all, the Hotline law had little impact on the local school districts’ resources or operations.
Florida’s FADSS Superintendent’s lobby, led by Democrat state senator William Montford, backed Runcie’s efforts.
In their continued pursuit of school safety deregulation, Runcie and his superintendent colleagues pushed for the repeal of the statewide hotline law, and circulated a shortlist of 13 proposed “deregulations” amongst the entire group of Florida Superintendents on September 24, 2012.
The circulation of the “deregulation” list was orchestrated through the FADSS Superintendent’s lobby group, which was (and still is) curiously overseen by Democrat State Senator William “Bill” Montford. Senator Montford acts as the FADSS Chief Executive Officer.
Florida’s Department of Education Commissioner enthusiastically jumps on board.
In November 2012, Florida’s Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, also enthusiastically jumped on board Runcie’s task force deregulation proposals which had grew to 54 in total. Stewart described the elimination of these regulations, which included the repeal of school safety-related laws — as the elimination of “unnecessary regulations” and “a win for students.”
Runcie’s task force also tried unsuccessfully to repeal Florida’s “school safety assessment and reporting” law.
Runcie’s “deregulation” shortlist also pushed for the repeal of the school board “school safety reporting” law in Fla. Stat. 1006.07(6). That statute requires school boards to annually conduct a self-assessment of the school district’s current safety and security practices. The superintendent is then required to annually recommend to the school board which strategies and activities that the school board should implement in order to improve school safety and security, and thereafter the district reports the self-assessment results and school board action to the commissioner of the Department of Education within 30 days.
1006.07: District school board duties relating to student discipline and school safety.—The district school board shall provide for the proper accounting for all students, for the attendance and control of students at school, and for proper attention to health, safety, and other matters relating to the welfare of students, including:
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(6) SAFETY AND SECURITY BEST PRACTICES.—Use the Safety and Security Best Practices developed by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to conduct a self-assessment of the school districts’ current safety and security practices. Based on these self-assessment findings, the district school superintendent shall provide recommendations to the district school board which identify strategies and activities that the district school board should implement in order to improve school safety and security. Annually each district school board must receive the self-assessment results at a publicly noticed district school board meeting to provide the public an opportunity to hear the district school board members discuss and take action on the report findings. Each district school superintendent shall report the self-assessment results and school board action to the commissioner within 30 days after the district school board meeting.
Fla. Stat. 1006.07 “Safety and Security Best Practices” (still Florida law despite attempt to repeal).
Runcie’s seven-person committee wanted to eliminate this common-sense safety reporting to the state back in 2012, but was unsuccessful in repealing this. It remains in Florida’s statutes today.
Did the Dec. 2012 Sandy Hook/Newton School Massacre temporarily derail Runcie’s safety regulation repeal efforts?
Ultimately, Runcie and his fellow Florida superintendents successfully achieved their objective to repeal the “Statewide School Safety Hotline” law by the legislature’s passage of Laws of Florida 2014-39, but not until the 2014 legislative session. Curiously, despite the coordinated efforts and support of the governor, Runcie’s select committee, the FADSS, and the Commissioner of the Department of Education, the repeal of the Safety Hotline did not occur during the 2013 Florida legislative session which commenced in early 2013, just after the December 2012 Newtown/Sandy Hook school shooting massacre. Was the political environment then not suitable for Runcie & Co. to eliminate the State School Safety Hotline law? Did they have to wait for the Sandy Hook dust to settle?
Questions That Deserve Answers….
The facts and circumstances surrounding Florida’s coordinated school safety deregulation, led by Runcie’s task force and the FADSS, raise the following questions:
- Might state authorities have intervened and prevented the Broward County school shooting massacre had Runcie and the FADSS instead pushed to enhance and further fund the “Statewide School Safety Hotline” following the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, rather than expediently pushing for its repeal? After all, it has been reported that the local Broward County Sheriff’s office failed to take proper action despite dozens of complaints about the school shooter Cruz. Would an anonymous statewide hotline have made a difference?
- If the “Statewide School Safety Hotline” was in effect today, would Governor Scott and the Legislature be utilizing it as another tool to enhance the safety of Florida’s schools, and to identify potential safety threats before they result in tragedies?
- By what authority do Florida’s 67 superintendents fund and support a lobby organization at all? Do taxpayers fund the FADSS lobby? Do district school vendors fund it? By statute, Florida’s superintendents are the executive officers of their respective school boards, and thus have a fiduciary duty to that board. The school boards are the elected policy-making heads of each county school district, NOT the superintendents. So why do the 67 superintendents have their own separate lobbying organization? What happens when the Superintendents’ lobbying platform diverges from a local elected school board’s own legislative platform? Are Superintendents informing their local School Boards about the substance of the separate FADSS legislative platform?
- Is the 67-member FADSS Superintendent’s lobby really running Florida’s various school districts, with local school board members becoming mere puppets pulled by the strings of their local district Superintendent? In effect, have school board members become hand-picked “useful idiots” who serve no purpose?
- Why is Bill Montford, a sitting Democrat State Senator, the Chief Executive Officer of the FADSS Superintendent’s lobby?
- Has your local Superintendent and school board complied with the annual school safety assessment, review and reporting requirements in Fla. Stat. 1006.07? If you don’t know the answer, you should ask your local district records custodian to provide the meeting minutes and backup records.