ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — What did the first 90 days of a new school year look like for St. Lucie County Schools?
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara and School Superintendent E. Wayne Gent revealed the first semester statistics Friday morning and showed the areas where more funding is needed.
— Michelle Quesada (@M_Quesada) January 11, 2019
In the first 18 weeks of the 2018-2019 school year, 100 St. Lucie County School students were baker acted. That averages out to at least one Baker Act a day at schools.
Right now, the state funds allotted for mental health has only allowed the district to hire about 10 more professionals for more than 30 schools.
The district has hardened school campuses by creating a single point of entry at all schools. Every school now has a school resource deputy, and high schools have two.
Staff are also routinely trained in Code Red and safety protocols.
"It's not if an incident might happen on a school campus, it's when," said Sheriff Mascara. "I just want to assure everyone that we are committed to keeping our campuses safe."
But mental health resources are trailing behind fortifying campuses and extra deputy training and presence, and that's because the funds just aren't there.
"The state legislature allocated some dollars for that and we are grateful for that, but it's a drop in the bucket," said Superintendent Gent.
With the $900,000 provided by the state, the School District hired five social workers and about four to five psychologists to rotate among the schools.
In the first 90 days of school, 100 kids were baker acted, which is nearly triple from the 34 during the second half of the 2017-2018 school year.
The Mobile Crisis Team, which responds to mental health incidents, was called out 44 times already this school year.
"That's not unique to this county. This is a national epidemic," said Sheriff Mascara.
School resource deputies also investigated 162 school threats in the first 18 weeks of the year compared to just 40 in the second half of the last school year. They're also following up on threats consistently as recommended by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report.
"That's what we saw as one of the committee recommendations from Broward, that these cases have to be followed up over and over again, and that's what they feel did not happen in Broward County," said Sheriff Mascara.
Districtwide, there were two bomb threats since the start of the school year, one the Sheriff said was reliable or very credible.
School resource reputies have conducted 6,554 campus security checks in the first 90 days, which means they walked the perimeter of the school and made sure all gates remained locked and secure.
There were a total of 49 felony arrests and 79 misdemeanor arrests.
Captain Brian Hester with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said arresting a student is always the last resort as SROs try to have the school take care of discipline or explore diversion programs.
Sheriff Mascara also said that 1,487 students initiated contact with school resource deputies to talk about incidents or offer tips or information.
The district is still working on completing fencing around a handful of schools as part of campus safety projects.
Since the start of the school year there have been 53 Code Red trainings and drills, not counting the drills conducted during the summer.
Captain Hester said every school has conducted a Code Red training at least twice this school year already.