DCPS School safety report

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County School Police is held up as an example of a district appearing to be “safer on paper,” according to a statewide grand jury interim report released late Thursday.

The report accuses the department of “outright fraud.” The report states that Duval County’s school police chief was instructed by school administration that the agency’s officers are not required to report “‘petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors to a law enforcement agency.’ As the testimony we received confirmed, this meant all misdemeanor crimes.”

Duval’s school police also appear to underreport the amount of incidents that are gang-related, the report details in the following passage:

“Although the Duval County School Board Police has an active Gang Liasion detective, and we have seen numerous photos, videos, social media boasts and testimony regarding widespread gang activity on school premises, from 2016-2020 the District has reported — out of 30,000 SESIR [School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting] incidents — a grand total of only six it describes as gang-related. It appears to us that this number dramatically underrepresents the level of gang activity in Duval County schools.”

Duval County Public Schools issued the following statement on the findings of the report:

“The safety and security of students and employees remains the highest priority of the district. The Interim report covers a number of years. During this time the district has made procedural improvements related to student behavioral incident reporting. We remain committed to examining current procedures to ensure strict compliance. To assure the School Board and the public, Duval County Schools will pursue an external review of district and school reporting practices to determine if further improvements are needed.

“As the Grand Jury is still actively convened, we look forward to providing additional updates upon the conclusion of its proceedings.”

School Board Chair Elizabeth Andersen issued the following statement on the findings:

“The findings presented are being taken seriously and will be thoroughly reviewed by the Duval School Board. We are committed to providing a safe educational environment for our children and communities. I appreciate Dr. Greene’s commitment to welcoming an external entity to provide a review and look forward to her recommendations for next steps.”

The 27-page document was posted late Thursday afternoon on the Florida Supreme Court website and was the third interim report issued by the grand jury, which the court impaneled in February 2019 at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The request came a year after a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The report also tore into Florida’s mental-health system, saying that “deficiencies in funding, leadership and services related to mental health care tend to turn up everywhere like bad pennies.”