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Florida House Passes School Safety Bill Remembering Parkland School Massacre As '911 Call To This State'

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — The 17 people who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were remembered on Thursday as the House unanimously passed a school safety bill that aims to build on a law that addressed the Parkland massacre.

The bill would require schools to develop plans to quickly notify parents if a school is suddenly shut down or evacuated during an emergency, whether that's an active shooter, a tornado or any other situation that threatens students.

School safety officers would have to be trained in mental health intervention and the Department of Children and Families would have to include school-related cases of people being involuntarily committee for psychological evaluation under the state's Baker Act.

"A school safety bill is something that we should do every single year, because there's always improvements that can be made, and the single most important thing that we should do in the education space is to make sure that when parents hug and kiss their kids goodbye, that they sit in a classroom that's safe," said Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

The bill also would require schools to develop a reunification plan for parents and students during an emergency and make it easier for schools to contract for mental health services.

The Department of Education would have to produce an annual report on the availability and effectiveness of mental health services.

Lawmakers responded quickly to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14, 2018, and passed legislation that included new gun restrictions, the creation of a commission to study school safety and a number of measures to improve communication between schools and law enforcement.

Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite recalled his feelings when hearing about shootings and meeting with parents and students who flooded the Capitol after the attack.

"I didn't sleep, I didn't eat. There was just a weird feeling in this chamber. There was a weird feeling across our state and our nation," he said. "That was a 911 call to this state to wake up and start protecting our children in a better way, shape or form and we started and we continue to do it."

The last statement before the vote was made by Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who was the Parkland mayor when the shooting occurred.

"I remember pretty much every moment after 2:15 on Feb. 14. It was devastating. What these families went through, no family – no family at school or anywhere – should have to go through," she said. "It's been incredible to watch the advocacy that's come out of this, but there's not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could go back and it would always be Feb. 13, 2018."

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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