Florida’s New School Safety Program: The Key to Preventing Mass Shootings

Ariana Bondi, Leanne Picinic, and Melina Lotito

With the countless mass shootings our nation has experienced, people have been tirelessly searching for solutions to prevent future shootings, with some advocating for gun reform. However, Florida has taken a new approach to attack this issue head on. Recently, the Florida Department of Education proposed a system that will detect potential threats aimed towards schools through monitoring students’, teachers’, and administrators’ social media platforms, the goal ultimately being to prevent future shootings. The system will use keywords and geo-locations to narrow its search. Keywords will include “gun,” “bomb,” “bullying,” “mental health,” and general. It will monitor the platforms of many students and send any threatening information to multiple agencies that are trained to handle this information. According to The New York Times, this program “would combine individuals’ educational, criminal justice, and social service records with their social media data, then share it all with law enforcement.” 

Everybody wonders if some tragedies could have been prevented, but with this system in place, we won’t have to wonder anymore. Of course, sometimes things will slip through the cracks, but overall, this system will help us more than hurt us. Nikolas Cruz was the perpetrator of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen people and injuring seventeen more. A news article from NPR stated that there were multiple red flags leading up to the shooting, one of which was his social media account, where he had made a post about “shooting up a school.” Not only this, but there were also several 911 calls that involved violent behavior from Cruz. If this program was in place during the Parkland shooting, Cruz could have been given professional help and ultimately stopped in fulfilling his horrible plan. 

One of the main concerns that people have with this program is the invasion of their privacy, but we feel that lack of privacy is a small price to pay for your safety. If you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t be concerned. The agencies that would be looking through your data have trustworthy employees who would have access to this information regardless. The difference now is that people are looking for specific keywords that could prevent tragedies. Nowadays, everything is online, and with one click of a button, kids can spread information to thousands of people—and they are responsible for that information. If you post online, then it is no longer private and people have access to it, so why not make it accessible to people who are trained to scour it for threats?

The Florida safety program isn’t perfect in this sense, as the system would intrude on people’s precious privacy tremendously, and all of our information could possibly be used against us in the future. For example, students all across the world are required to do research projects that are out of their comfort zones, requiring them to research words such as bombs, ISIS, guns, and weapons. The system would see these words and flag the innocent students, sharing their information with multiple agencies. Not everyone should have to pay this price in order for this system to function, but we believe that the safety of students is ultimately the biggest priority. Even though people may fear their privacy may be violated, they have an ethical responsibility of posting or searching for appropriate content. 

We have seen too many devastating events over the recent years, and they must come to an end. This program has the potential to save countless lives and prevent tragedies. Parents should have no reason to be nervous while dropping their children off at school, likewise the students when going to school.  We shouldn’t let privacy become a barrier to protecting our children. After all, our children are always our number one priority. Florida’s School Safety Program can set a precedent for other states to make the same change.