Wink | By Paul Dolan, Reported by Peter Fleischer | September 8, 2022
From the Uvalde, Texas mass shooting to the 2018 Parkland school shooting, Florida has learned locally and nationally how to handle these situations.
Recent data, discovered by WINK News, could explain how more tragedies have been avoided in Southwest Florida.
Looking at trespassing incidents in Southwest Florida schools a graph shows numbers spiking in 2018 after Parkland. However, those numbers have since dropped in recent years.
According to Mike Reilly, the school and community liaison for Charlotte County schools, the Parkland shooting “Changed everything!” Reilly mentioned he’s never seen such a drastic shift during his decades while working in education.
“It seemed like the focus wasn’t on reading and writing, arithmetic and learning,” Reilly said. “The focus was on keeping the children and faculty safe.”
After Parkland, Florida schools began to transform to put the safety of the students as a top priority. Chain link fences surround campus’, security cameras keep a watchful eye, and nobody is getting into school without being buzzed in first.
“And someone will say, can I help you? You’ll press the button and again, you’ll have to show your license, and say I’m here for this purpose,” Reilly said.
Collier County Sheriff, Kevin Rambosk was keenly observing the spiking number of trespassing incidents at Southwest Florida schools.
“We were getting a lot of calls about suspicious persons,” Rambosk said. “Or vehicles around schools, after Parkland particularly. Since then, we’ve done a lot of awareness training.”
As quickly as the numbers rose, they fell right back down. While it should be noted, that the year of the COVID-19 pandemic may have influenced those numbers, nevertheless, trespassing numbers have dropped even with students back in school for two full school years.
Rambosk said that people know to stay away from schools unless they’ve got important business.
“You can not loiter and hang around schools anymore,” said Rambosk. “If you shouldn’t be there, I believe a lot more people are not interacting at school today because of the increased awareness over the last five years.”
Experts believe that schools are safe and they credit improving technology and communication.
“I use this line a lot: We’ll err on the side of caution. We’ll make a mistake just to be cautious with the kids,” said Reilly.
“The entire community has to be involved. The school system has to be involved. Students, parents, teachers,” said Rambosk.
Lee County schools data shows Riverdale High School has dealt with trespassing issues in recent years but students have been kept safe.
“I like the chain link fences, I like the security because I have volunteered at elementary schools. Only teachers can get in. Parents have got to have some piece of mind,” a nearby neighbor said.
“Chain link may not be the most attractive but what would it cost to put in something pretty,” asked another neighbor. “Kids should feel safe going to school! And the faculty and everyone else should feel safe in the school.”
WINK News asked Sheriff Rambosk what’s the best way to help law enforcement keep schools safe? Sheriff Rambosk simply answered by saying communicate!
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office won a 2022 National Award of Excellence from the School Safety Advocacy Council for its threat management program. If you or anyone you know becomes aware of suspicious activity or a potential school threat, you can use the Fortify Florida app to contact the nearest law enforcement agency.
Click here for more information about the Fortify Florida app.