Three years later, father of Parkland shooting victim calls for meaningful school safety reform

This Valentine’s Day marks three years since my son Alex, age 14, was one of the 17 innocent victims that was senselessly murdered during the Parkland school massacre. In the blink of just three minutes and 44 seconds, my life, along with so many others’, was changed forever by a horrific, yet preventable, mass murder.

Since the day of the shooting, I have dedicated my life to ensuring schools are a safe haven for our children and that no child’s life is lost again in their school. I have made nearly two dozen trips to Washington, D.C., where I’ve met with officials in the highest levels of government to advocate for safer schools. I even launched Safe Schools for Alex, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide the most current school safety best practices and resources to students, parents, school districts and law enforcement so that all children can learn in a safe environment.

I’m proud of the progress we’ve made over the last three years. Just recently, the Luke and Alex School Safety Act of 2021 (named in honor of my son Alex and his friend Luke Hoyer) was reintroduced by Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartGOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors Biden grants temporary legal status to thousands of Venezuelans in US MORE (R-Fla.) and Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchHouse panel opens probe into Tom Reed over sexual misconduct allegations Biden clean electricity standard faces high hurdles House Democrats introduce carbon pricing measure MORE (D-Fla.), as well as Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges Hillicon Valley: Amazon wins union election — says 'our employees made the choice' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE (R-Fla.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Trump endorses Rand Paul for reelection MORE (R-Wis.). This legislation will codify the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse into law. The Federal School Safety Clearinghouse, located inside the Department of Homeland Security, represents a whole-of-government approach and reflects coordination not just across federal agencies, but with state partners and nonprofit organizations. The Clearinghouse serves as the foundation for an ongoing and coordinated effort to review safety content and recommend best practices to keep schools safe on SchoolSafety.gov.

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We’re still nowhere near finished with the work that needs to be done, though. Even after the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Sante Fe and Parkland, the majority of schools across the country still don’t believe this tragedy could occur in their community, just like Parkland did.

I never thought Alex would be murdered in his classroom, and I’ve been forced to face the undeniable truth that mass school shootings are a reality in this country. That's why I strongly believe that safety and security measures should continuously be at the forefront around school discussions. And while the COVID-19 pandemic may have taken this issue out of frontpage headlines for the time being, more school shootings will occur as our society returns to a state of normalcy and students return to the classroom. Now is the time for our local and state institutions to take bold action.

That’s why I just launched the School Incident Report ― The First Statewide Dashboard to Reduce School Violence. The School Incident Report is a first of its kind independent dashboard for parents and schools to make schools safer by bringing awareness to the incidents of physical attack, drug use, bullying, sexual assault, weapons possession, and others, as well as the numbers of in- and out-of-school suspensions in all of Florida’s public schools. The report provides parents with the data they need to start a conversation with their school and work together to reduce violence, suspensions, and create a positive culture and climate. It will also act as a valuable resource for legislators, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to understand what issues need to be addressed along with prioritizing districts and schools that need our resources.

We owe it to Alex and the 16 others who lost their lives three years ago to make a meaningful change, such as the passage of the Luke and Alex Schools Safety Act and expanding the School Incident Report nationwide. Schools should be considered safe havens for our children to prosper, and these efforts are a step in the right direction.

Max Schachter is the father of 14-year-old Alex who was killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.