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The Latest: Florida massacre panel begins debate

November 16, 2018
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Broward Sheriff Scott Israel speaks before the the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the panel investigating the Florida high school massacre (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

The state commission investigating the Florida high school massacre is beginning discussions on what recommendations it will make regarding school safety, mental health and steps to avoid future school shootings.

The Feb. 14 attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland killed 14 students and three staff members.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Commission, which has met periodically since April, didn’t pass any specific recommendations Friday. But it decided that it will focus its first batch of recommendations on less controversial areas like school hardening than more difficult areas like mental health.

The commissioners decided that rather than go through items publicly Friday, they would review possible recommendations compiled by their staff individually, submit suggestions and then debate them publicly at a December meeting.

The 14-member panel must file its initial report to Florida’s governor and the Legislature by Jan. 1.

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2:25 p.m.

Eight of Florida’s 67 countywide school districts haven’t filed safety assessments mandated after the state’s on-campus massacre in February.

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Friday there’s little she can do to districts that don’t file the assessments. The Legislature mandated the annual reports after the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17. They were due Oct. 31. Stewart is member of the commission.

She said the missing districts are Calhoun, Clay, Gilchrist, Indian River, Martin, Palm Beach, Taylor and Washington counties. She said Calhoun’s report was delayed because of Hurricane Michael and others are completed but awaiting that district’s school board’s approval.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member, said the new state law should require the suspension of a district’s superintendent and board chair if the deadline is broken.

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10:45 a.m.

The attorney for a sheriff’s deputy who was on campus during the Florida high school massacre has started a charity website to raise money for the man’s legal defense.

Attorney Joseph DiRuzzo III started a GoFundMe page for now-retired Broward County sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson in hopes of raising $150,000 “to defend him against any spurious claims of criminal liability.”

DiRuzzo noted the GoFundMe page in a lawsuit filed this week to block Peterson from being forced to testify before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which is investigating the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead. Many members of the commission have called Peterson “a coward” for not charging into the building with his handgun and confronting the shooter, who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

By Friday afternoon, the drive had been taken down after having raised $40 at last check.

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12:45 a.m.

A panel investigating Florida’s high school massacre is to continue meeting Friday, expected to learn more about the medical response to the Feb. 14 attack that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members.

The panel has been meeting periodically since April and has a Jan. 1 deadline to report its findings to Gov. Rick Scott on the shooting’s causes and recommendations for avoiding any future school attacks.

On Friday, the commission also is expected to begin debating possible findings.

On Thursday, Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson — who was on campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the attack but didn’t confront the shooter — declined to testify before the state commission. He has been criticized for not rushing to attempt to stop the shooter.

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