Christie: Palm Beach County school security rewrites will placate parents, but won’t stop shootings

A Palm Beach County School District resource officer opens the gates to the Palm Beach Central High School parking lot so owners can retrieve their cars after the shooting Friday night, during the football game between Palm Beach Central and Dwyer high schools. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

The Palm Beach County School Board agreed last week to spend up to $372,000 for a political consultant to advertise about the proposed property tax hike on radio, TV and online.

At the risk of sounding cynical, they might have just saved the taxpayer’s money given Friday night’s tragic events. Although the logical argument for the new tax revenue highlight a long-overdue boost in pay of public school teachers, the emotional part of the argument is fueled by the school safety issue.

And over the last few days that emotion has been dialed up to a level we all hoped it never would.

RELATED: Woman: I witnessed shooting at football game in Wellington, ‘couldn’t believe it’

You see, there’s school security, and then there’s school security.

That has become readily apparent in the wake of Friday night’s shooting at a football game between Palm Beach Central and William T. Dwyer high schools in that otherwise safe suburban enclave of Wellington.

The shooting wasn’t technically on campus; but I’m not sure it really matters at this point.

Much like the attendees at that football game, school officials and politicians are running scared of anything that raises doubts in the minds of parents’ and students’ that they can protect kids on a school campus.

Galvano

Even before the shooting last week, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano said he wants state lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 legislative session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

In a series of tweets last Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety, according to the News Service of Florida.

“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”

In the 2018 session, lawmakers approved a wide-ranging, $400 million measure (SB 7026) measure that includes requiring schools to have safety officers, bolstering mental-health services and upgrading protections through school campus “hardening” projects.

And that’s kind of the rub here isn’t it? Friday’s shooting, which left two people injured — at least one critically — was barely on the school campus. In fact, Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said it was an act of community violence that “barely spilled” on to the school campus. The shooting happened just outside the seating area — about 50 yards from a main road and outside the “secure” area of the stadium.

Most important, Kitzerow added, “Your children are safe. Come to school on Monday. We will be there.”

On Satuday, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (R) and Palm Beach School Police Chief Frank Kitzerow (L), brief the media on the shooting that took place at Palm Beach Central High School. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

They were indeed. A couple of extra sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside Palm Beach Central High Monday morning. But more importantly, school district and sheriff’s officials are rewriting the security playbook this week to among other things, incorporate the area outside of a football stadium.

To be sure, it sounds like a knee-jerk over-reaction. But they don’t have much choice. The school board can either make adjustments so that parents and students feel better, or get hammered by those same parents and students for their lack of compassion.

As the Post’s Sonja Isger reported, those adjustments include morning kickoffs for some of the biggest games of the season and an hour earlier starts at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. for others.

Once fans get to the game, only clear bags — and searched diaper bags — will make it through the gates.

And going forward, security staffing plans for football games and other large events will be devised by school police and paid for out of district accounts rather than pinning those obligations on each school. A group of principals will be putting together a list of protocols to be standard at events countywide.

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But how much is really enough? Especially when you’ve got teachers rethinking whether they support being armed and parents refusing to send their kids to any more football games.

A week ago, if you had mentioned doing either of those things to most Palm Beach County residents, the majority would have looked at you like you’re nuts.

Not today.

Do you think school district officials are going too far changing when games are played?… Vote in our poll and leave a comment here.

Christie: McGlockton shooting pushes limits on ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense

The Rev. Al Sharpton led Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates in a rally at a Clearwater church on Sunday calling for the repeal of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Is it right for someone who initiates a confrontation to then hide behind “Stand Your Ground” as a defense when they shoot and kill the other person?

That’s the basic question that seems to be coming out of the latest high-profile shooting of an unarmed back man in Clearwater, Fla.

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You’ve heard the story or seen the dramatic video by now: On July 19, Michael Drejka, 47, shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, 28, in a convenience store parking lot. According to Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies, Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap space without a permit.

McGlockton went up to Drejka and “slammed him to the ground,” the sheriff’s office said. Drejka, seconds later while still on the ground, pulled out his handgun and shot McGlockton in the chest. The father of three was pronounced dead soon after.

It should come as no surprise, with all of the national attention on such shootings, that debate over the incident has entered the realm of politics. To be sure, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri first lit that debate fire by announcing the day after the shooting that he would not charge Drejka because the changes in the stand your ground law signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017 muddied the waters too much.

But lawmakers and candidates on both sides of the political aisle disagree. Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a Clearwater church on Sunday to call for the repeal of the state’s controversial stand your ground law. And on Friday, Democrats in the Florida Legislature reached the 20 percent goal to force a poll of members on the question of an unusual election-year special session to change the “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Meanwhile, the Republican frontrunner for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis, is joining Democratic and Republican critics alike in believing that Drejka should not have Stand Your Ground immunity: “I support the right of Floridians to defend themselves by standing their ground against aggressors. That said, it doesn’t seem to me that the law is even applicable in the case of Markeis McGlockton, and I don’t think the Pinellas County sheriff analyzed the law properly.”

Markeis MCGlockton

Jacobs, 25, has called McGlockton’s shooting a wrongful death, and has hired civil rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump Jr., who also represented the family of Travyon Martin after he was shot and killed by wanna-be cop George Zimmerman.

While Zimmerman didn’t end up using stand your ground as a defense, police didn’t arrest him at first because of it.

At a recent news conference, Crump pointed out that, like Drejka, whom he labeled a “self-appointed, wannabe cop,” Zimmerman pursued Martin instead of letting law enforcement take over.

“It’s still ludicrous how you can claim that you have fear of your life but yet you approach and start the confrontation with the individual,” he told reporters.

Closer to home, you may remember that Crump also represents the family of Corey Jones Jr., the Delray Beach drummer who was gunned down in October 2015 by then-undercover Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja. Raja has been charged in Jones death, and is attempting to use a stand your ground defense.

Jacobs says McGlockton was her high-school sweetheart. The pair had been together since 2009, when she met him at a friend’s house while attending Dunedin High School.

They stopped at the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road on the way home from picking Jacobs up from her job as a certified nursing assistant to grab chips and drinks. Jacobs parked in the handicap spot, she said, because the parking lot was busy and they were just stopping for a minute.

The couple’s 4-month-old and 3-year-old were in the car. Their 5-year-old, named after McGlockton, was in the store.

Drejka then shot McGlockton, later telling Pinellas deputies he was in fear of further attack.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri discuss the controversial shooting of Markeis McGlockton during a news conference discussing the Stand Your Ground Law at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Administration Building in Largo on July 31. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

According to legal experts, it generally doesn’t apply when the confrontation is just verbal, barring any threats of violence.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who again has said the stand your ground law precludes his agency from arresting Drejka, has taken a similar stance. At a recent news conference, the sheriff, who is a lawyer, said what was “merely a discussion about why she’s parked there … didn’t provoke the attack.” His agency has forwarded the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to decide whether to press charges.

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