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22 of Florida’s 67 School Districts Are Using Armed Personnel as “Guardians” to Comply With Law

| August 15, 2018

Those behind the guns won;t be as discernible as school resource deputies. (Freddie Brown)

Those behind the guns won;t be as discernible as school resource deputies. (Freddie Brown)

About a third of Florida’s school districts are taking steps to deploy armed “guardians” on school campuses to prevent incidents such as mass shootings, according to the state Office of Safe Schools.

Damien Kelly, a veteran law-enforcement officer who is the first director of the newly created safety agency, told the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday that 22 of the 67 districts are in the process of deploying specially trained personnel under the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.”

The program was named for an assistant football coach who used his body to shield students during the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The guardian program, which is part of a $400 million school-safety law passed this year by the Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Scott, has been controversial, with most districts, including Flagler County, rejecting the idea of training school personnel to be armed.

But with a mandate that each Florida school have at least one safety officer, some districts are using the guardian program, which was designed to supplement the traditional use of school resource officers and other law-enforcement officers.

The Legislature set aside $67 million in one-time funding for the guardian program to cover the cost of doing background checks and training the personnel. The guardians will also be provided with a $500 stipend to cover equipment costs.

Kelly, who spent 13 years with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a dozen years with the Memphis police, said 22 local sheriff’s departments have applied to train volunteers for the guardian program, with about $9.4 million in funding requests.

With students already back in their classrooms in the majority of districts for the 2018-2019 academic year, Kelly outlined other school safety initiatives underway including:

— A FortifyFL app that will let students and others use their mobile phones to report suspicious activity.

— A data-analytics system that will allow the monitoring of social media in school districts.

— The appointment of a “school safety specialist” in each of the 67 districts to coordinate safety activity. The specialists will be trained by Kelly’s office.

Kelly also described to the Board of Education, which was meeting in Orlando, numerous meetings he has held with local school officials, law enforcement agencies and others as the new school-safety initiatives are put into place across the state.

He said he has been reviewing recommendations that were developed in the wake of other mass shootings, ranging from the Pulse nightclub shootings in 2016 in Orlando to the shootings at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017.

The safety suggestions include the use of active-shooter training, the need to test communication systems, planning for access by medical personnel and the need for more tourniquets, Kelly said.

He also said he has visited schools where new fencing has been installed to limit campus access, although in some cases it has drawn complaints from the public.

“Sadly, this is a different day and age that we’re living in now, and these measures are important,” Kelly said.

He also said cost remains a major factor for many districts and law-enforcement agencies as they work to improve school safety.

Other school-safety recommendations are expected to emerge from the ongoing work of the state-created Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which is investigating the Broward County shooting.

–Lloyd Dunkleberger, News Service of Florida

6 Responses for “22 of Florida’s 67 School Districts Are Using Armed Personnel as “Guardians” to Comply With Law”

  1. oldtimer says:

    The only reason this is a ” different day and age” is because we as a society let it happen

  2. Anonymous says:

    But in Flagler we create Law Enforcement positions and pay retirement and health insurance and increase the Sheriff’s budget by millions because our school board and Sheriff choose to NOT use Guardians. This is all a bunch of BS. What is going to be the game plan when there is another school shooting and more die with all these LEO’s and Guardians are in the schools? Where does the insanity stop? This is not the solution—this is just more waste of tax dollars.

  3. mark101 says:

    One thing you can bet on. If there is a shooting in one of these schools that doesn’t have police staffed or school guardians, there will be really soon. Hiding your head in the sand hoping the problem goes away is borderline dumb. In this day and age of violence by kids that are upset with life and how easy it is to get a gun, without a doubt more hate will take place. Dam shame its come to this. We send our young children to a place to learn, to grow and become responsible young adults, but now they hide and wonder when and if something will happen. Sad really.

  4. Agkistrodon says:

    I think it is wiser to do this than to provide, “buckets of rocks” to be thrown at a shooter……….

  5. Richard says:

    This will do nothing except waste more of the taxpayers money. These schools need to be HARDENED. Entries need to be reduced and monitored by LEO’s with full body scanners and potable scanners. All backpacks and cases need to be scanned. Essentially identical to the way security is setup at government buildings, court buildings, airports, etc. There should be NO WAY anyone can get any type of weapon into a school no how no way NEVER. Anything less is a waste of time, resources and peoples money. You are only giving people a false sense of security by doing the above. Get real and get HARD!

  6. Concerned Citizen says:

    So my question is this.

    If you have an active shooter situation take place and a Guardian engages how does Law Enforcement discern the Guardian from the perp?

    It seems to me a foolish idea to have anyone but a uniformed easily identifiable Law Enforcement Officer inside a high profile target like a school.

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