Pinellas legislator Carl Zimmermann drafts school safety bill

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A newly elected teacher-turned-Florida legislator is proposing school security measures that could only come from the inside.

Carl Zimmermann, State Representative for District 65 and a teacher at Countryside High School, thinks simple changes in Florida classrooms could help save lives during a threatening situation like the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Zimmermann is calling for placing locks on the inside of classroom doors and reinforcing them with bullet-proof windows.

“In many schools, teachers have to leave the classroom to lock the door, because the doors only lock from the outside,” he said.

“The recent shootings made everyone aware of this,” he said.

Zimmermann, a broadcast journalism teacher, said this would be especially helpful at schools that do not have a main entrance. He said the doors to the classrooms are located on the outside of their respective buildings, instead of inside a main hall in the building. 

“You have to have safe places for everybody. It’s not safe if you can’t lock the door,” Zimmermann said.

Pinellas County Schools has two types of classroom door locks, said Michael Bessette, associate superintendent of operational services.

Double-cylinder locks are installed at the newer schools. They can be locked from the inside and outside. Many of the older schools have what Bessette calls “old model handles” that lock from the outside.

“We’ve been in the process of changing them over during the last three years,”  he said.

The school district has added security features over the years, but money limits how much they can do. “We don’t have millions of dollars,” said Bessette.

Zimmermann is also proposing doors be enforced with bullet-proof windows. 

The freshman lawmaker submitted his draft of the bill Tuesday evening, along with the draft of an education bill. 

“Since I work in the schools, I know the problems that need to be addressed,” he said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.