With a nickname like “Chain Gang Charlie,” it’s not surprising that new Florida Education Commissioner Charlie Crist plans to make school safety a top priority during his two-year term, which began Jan. 3, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
“The No. 1 issue I heard around the state was safety,” Crist said. “Parents want to be able to send their child off to school in the morning knowing they will truly be safe. We force students to go there, so we better make sure they’re safe as best we can.”
With that in mind, Crist wants to create programs that will assess how well schools protect children. Parents will be allowed to move their children elsewhere if a school repeatedly fails the safety assessments. Crist also wants to require school districts to create toll-free safety hot lines for anonymous reporting of dangerous activity.
During his six years in the state Senate, Crist gained a reputation for being tough on crime. He helped pass legislation that required criminals serve 85 percent of their sentences and also led the charge to bring back chain gangs as punishmenthence the nickname, courtesy of an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times.
“I don’t mind,” Crist said during a recent interview with the newspaper at the Capitol. “But it’s got to be put in perspective. When that came about in 1995, Florida was No. 1 in violent crime in this country.”