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Post-Parkland, Himmel among leaders shaping policy at capital

Citrus County School District Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel spent two days in Tallahassee this week discussing school safety and gun violence prevention with other superintendents, mental health experts and members of law enforcement, as well as a student representative from Broward County.

“It was good to sit on the roundtable to discuss other perspectives,” Himmel said Wednesday afternoon. “A lot of discussion was about mental health. A lot of the discussion was about sharing information.”

“Even with background checks, there’s a lot of information that, when you go to buy a gun, could be in your past but not on your record,” Himmel continued. “They talked about Baker Acts — that you could be Baker Acted several times, threaten someone, and still go buy a gun. So they’re looking at that at the state level.”

Himmel was also asked to attend a later meeting at Gov. Rick Scott’s office, at which a group comprised largely of law enforcement representatives discussed school safety measures.

“There were mental-health conversations, but a lot of it was about making sure there was one school resource officer per campus,” Himmel said of the second meeting. “Part of that discussion was one SRO can’t be everywhere at the same time.”

Superintendents don’t feel that schools districts alone can be responsible for making changes to enhance schools’ safety and prevent future violence, Himmel said.

“We don’t believe that we’re the mental health experts or the safety experts. We rely a lot on the mental health groups. We rely a lot on the sheriff’s office because they’re very involved in our safety plans,” she said. “I think I speak on behalf of all of us (superintendents) when I say we don't want everything handed to the school districts. Don’t say ‘Do this, fix this, here’s a few more dollars.’

“A student representative there from Broward County said ‘Those students (from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Broward County) aren’t going to take no for an answer,’” Himmel said. “They brought up Sandy Hook Elementary and said ‘Those kids, the little ones, can’t stand up for themselves.’”

A large group of students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas visited the capital this week, lobbying for stricter background checks, among other precautions. Many were in the House of Representatives galleries Tuesday when an effort to bring a bill that would have banned the sale of assault weapons up for debate was voted down.

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