Florida Supreme Court Orders Grand Jury to Investigate School Safety

Jack Crowe

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday approved governor Ron DeSantis’s request that a statewide grand jury be convened to investigate school safety.

DeSantis filed the request, which was approved unanimously by the court’s seven justices, on February 13, almost one year to the day after a lone gunman shot and killed 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The new grand jury, comprising 18 members, has a broad mandate to investigate whether school districts in the state failed to live up to the commitments they made when they accepted state money appropriated for school-safety improvements.

“We know Broward has to be looked at. I don’t know if Hamilton County needs to be,” DeSantis said in announcing his request while surrounded by families who lost children in the Parkland shooting. “There’s more evidence in Broward than other districts.”

In making his request, DeSantis cited the multiple reported instances of incompetence and failure to act on the part of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and school administrators, and called the resulting massacre a “tragic and avoidable incident.”

The court, though it did not limit the scope of the grand jury’s investigation, tasked jurors with answering the following questions:

Whether refusal or failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, results in unnecessary and avoidable risk to students across the state.

Whether public entities committed — and continue to commit — fraud and deceit by accepting state funds conditioned on implementation of certain safety measures while knowingly failing to act.

Whether school officials committed — and continue to commit — fraud and deceit by mismanaging, failing to use, and diverting funds from multimillion-dollar bonds specifically solicited for school safety initiatives.

Whether school officials violated — and continue to violate — state law by systemically under-reporting incidents of criminal activity to the Department of Education.

The grand jury will enjoy subpoena power during its twelve-month investigation and can hand down criminal indictments.

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