The Florida Schools Safety Portal, which went live Aug. 1, gives Florida school threat assessment teams wider access to data to evaluate school safety threats.
The portal, a requirement of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, centralizes data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Children and Families, local law enforcement, and social media monitoring, according to a press release and FAQ from the Florida Education Department.
“Access to timely, more accurate information will allow our law enforcement and threat assessment teams to respond and intercept possible threats, while also ensuring students in need of professional help get the necessary support,” said Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis in the press release.
Several education and privacy groups have expressed concerns about the type of information available in the portal and how that information will be used. Last month, 33 groups sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis urging him to halt the portal. One concern was that information such as students’ disabilities or reports of bullying based on sexual orientation could be used to label a student as a potential threat.
According to the Florida ED’s Aug. 1 press release, the portal will not be used to label students as potential threats. An FAQ released by ED also states that the portal will not store information about students’ race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.
Amelia Vance, the director of the education privacy project at the Future of Privacy Forum, called the statement misleading because the press release also states that no information will be stored in the portal. Information is temporarily displayed for 30 minutes, states the FAQ.
“I’m glad that the portal will not be used preemptively to fish for threats, but including the incredibly sensitive data listed … means that the state has decided that those data points are relevant in making the eventual determination that a student is or is not a threat,” Vance wrote in an email to Special Ed Connection®.
The FAQ states that the following information will be accessible through the portal:
- School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting and discipline information;
- FortifyFL information, an application that shows suspicious activity that has been reported;
- Social media monitoring data, which searches publicly available social media posts on a variety of sites for posts containing certain critical threat indicators;
- Baker Act admissions and reportable center data; and
- Law enforcement information — law enforcement officers will have access to law enforcement records through the Florida Criminal Justice Network.
In a July 23 letter sent to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Future of Privacy Forum wrote that repurposing data for threat assessment purposes could disincentivize students and parents from seeking supports such as mental health care or special education services.
“Using this data for school surveillance programs disincentivizes individuals from getting help when they need it, ultimately undermining keeping all students safe and ensuring educational supports for any child that needs them,” the letter states.
Jennifer Herseim is an editor for LRP Media Group and program chair for Inclusion and Special Education at DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference.