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Judge Rules School Boards Must Provide Security Officers to Charter Schools Just As They Do Their Own

| March 12, 2019

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Lutz during safety training for district faculty at the Flagler Auditorium at the beginning of the school year. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Lutz during safety training for district faculty at the Flagler Auditorium at the beginning of the school year. (© FlaglerLive)

In a decision that could have statewide implications, an administrative law judge Tuesday ruled that the Palm Beach County School Board is required to assign safety officers to charter schools under a law passed last year.

Judge John Van Laningham sided with Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in Palm Beach County and wanted the School Board to provide “safe school” officers. The School Board refused, leading to the legal battle.

In Flagler County, the school district has a contract with the Sheriff’s Office to provide 13 deputies to its traditional public schools. Imagine School at Town Center, the last surviving charter school in the county, contracts separately with the sheriff’s office for security. Half the money for all school deputies is provided by the County Commission.

Van Laningham, in a 43-page order, pointed to a law passed after the February 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that included a requirement for safe-school officers.

“In sum, after a thorough study of the statute’s plain language, including a review of related statutes at the board’s request to determine whether some latent ambiguity exists, the undersigned concludes that (the law) clearly and unambiguously requires school boards and superintendents — not charter school operators — to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs (safe-school officers), with the assistance of local law enforcement agencies, to every public school within their respective jurisdictions, including charter schools,” Van Laningham wrote.

The judge indicated the ruling was the first of its kind, describing the dispute as a “first-impression question of statewide interest,” as schools and districts try to comply with the post-Parkland requirements.

Charter schools are public schools that often are operated by private entities. The dispute about safe-school officers comes amid broader clashes across the state about the interplay between school boards and charter schools.

The 2018 law required placing safe-school officers at all public schools. That can include using law-enforcement officers or “guardians,” who are trained school personnel allowed to carry guns. Palm Beach County does not use guardians, according to Van Laningham’s ruling.

Renaissance requested in March 2018 that the School Board provide a full-time safety officer at each of Renaissance’s charter schools, but the board denied the request. The board also later declined a request to mediate the issue, which ultimately led to the dispute going before Van Laningham, the ruling said.

“There is no dispute in this case that, under the safety act, one or more SSOs must be assigned to each charter school facility in the district, including RCS’s (Renaissance’s) six schools,” the judge wrote. “The question is, whose duty is it to assign SSOs to charter schools? The board’s answer, clearly expressed in word and deed, is this: It’s not our job; rather, the obligation falls to each charter school to arrange police protection for its own campus, as though each charter school were a school district unto itself.”

Van Laningham said he was not deciding issues such as who is required to pay for the officers.

“While disputes concerning this financial obligation might someday be ripe for adjudication, the narrower question of law … is, simply, who must satisfy the duty to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs at charter schools,” he wrote. “The plain and obvious answer to this pivotal question is: the district school board and district superintendent.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

Renaissance Charter v. Palm Beach County School Board (2019)

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11 Responses for “Judge Rules School Boards Must Provide Security Officers to Charter Schools Just As They Do Their Own”

  1. Rick G says:

    What a disservice to all Florida taxpayers who pay school tax… These private schools should pay for their own expenses including security. They already have no supervision from the local school boards so why should additional funding be provided for their narrow minded curriculum?

  2. gmath55 says:

    Charter schools are public schools that often are operated by private entities. I guess you miss that Rick G. And, don’t parents who send their children to charter schools still pay taxes? So, how is it a disservice to taxpayers? Rick G did you or your children ever attend a charter school? So, how do you know that it is a narrow minded curriculum? Mmmm?

  3. Flatsflyer says:

    So the private for profit schools eliminate another expense, the greedy bastards will end up with 100% profit before long. Why not simply close them down and give the owners a check for a million dollars a month, would save the taxpayers money in the long run and ensure the children would get a real education

  4. oldtimer says:

    Why should public taxes pay for private schools?

  5. Pogo says:

    @Rick G is correct

    Legislature deserting traditional public schools for charters — don’t do it! | Commentary

    By Lauren RitchieLauren Ritchie Contact Reporter

    “When you hire a lifelong politician whose wife founded a charter school, and you make him king of education in Florida, all but the dimmest of political watchers get the point: Charters are the No. 1 priority.

    The other 90 percent of Florida public school students who go to traditional campuses can pound sound.

    Charter and voucher school supporters such as Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Mount Dora’s home-schooled state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan — chair of the House Education Committee — have made it clear that school choice will be getting a boost in this year’s legislative session, and they’ve got the muscle to do it.

    Unfortunately, charter and voucher schools are the GOP’s alternative to doing actual work — you know, tackling a truly messed up education system that would take creative thinking and unity to change…”

    @Flatsflyer and oldtimer are correct

    Commentary: ‘Failing’ schools? Charter schools get F’s three times as often in Florida

    “For years, Florida politicians have trashed public schools, describing them as “failures.”

    Traditional public schools get it wrong, they say.

    Charter schools get it right, they say.

    We need to take money away from “failing” traditional schools and give more of it to charter schools, they say.

    Yet when school grades were released this past week, not a single traditional school in Orange County received an F.

    Five charter schools did.

    Yes, every single “failing” school in Orange County was a charter school.

    The numbers looked similar statewide. Less than 1 percent of traditional public schools earned F’s. But 3.4 percent of charter schools did.

    That means charter schools were more than three times as likely to fail…”

    Schools Without Rules: An Orlando Sentinel Investigation

    The Orlando Sentinel spent months reporting on Florida’s scholarship programs, which will send nearly $1 billion to private schools this year. The Sentinel also reviewed thousands of pages of Florida Department of Education documents, court records and other materials in addition to interviewing dozens of people, including parents, students, school operators and policy experts.

  6. Michael Cocchiola says:

    gmath55… charter schools are open to the public but are actually taxpayer-funded for-profit private schools. They operate independently of local school board rules and regulations. Roughly 80% of charter schools are affiliated with tax-exempt religious institutions. I surely don’t want any more of my taxes supporting private businesses and in particular those that are church-owned . Remember the separation of church and state? That used to mean something.. Anyway, let them pay for their own security and take it out of profits,

  7. gmath55 says:

    @ Flatsflyer – Hate to burst your bubble but I went to a Catholic school and the education was way better then the public schools. If fact when I entered the 9th grade at a public school because my parents didn’t have a choice I was one year ahead of all the other students that attended public school first through eighth grade. You need to get your facts straight! And, my parents paid taxes and paid for me to go to the private Catholic school. Some of you have no clue what you are talking about!

  8. Dave says:

    These for profit private schools that continuously damage the education of our children just to make a buck will now be able to keep those dollars that should go towards security by having the public school system provide their protection for them. That is insane and if these schools want to be for profit and have sub standard teaching,they should do it on their own dime.

  9. Nancy N. says:

    The charter schools are trying to double-dip. They are already receiving their funding from the school district, which is supposed to cover their operation costs. Now, they are trying to get the districts to give them MORE money, which will of course end up coming out of the per-pupil spending for the public school students.

    I thought the whole point of charter schools was supposed to be that they could educate children cheaper than the public schools could. Why then do they need help paying for school security when the public districts are managing to do it on the similar funding they receive?

  10. Educator says:

    Private schools are different then charter schools. Private schools such as Catholic schools are paid for by the parents. Charter schools use vouchers from the state, taxpayers money that have been taken away from public schools. Most Charter schools are for profit, and do not have to follow the same guidelines as public schools and that is why they fail. Private schools have smaller class size and can choose who they want, and can get rid of anyone that causes problems. The fact is, you should work in a public, private and charter school as i have done for 38 years, then voice your opinion.

  11. Sherry says:

    In my opinion, charter schools are an attempt to use “PUBLIC” school tax payer funds to completely circumvent all standard regulations by elected school boards. They are trying to have it “BOTH WAYS”, by helping themselves to our school taxes, while not being under the jurisdiction of our elected officials.

    The whole FOR PROFIT “Charter School” industry is nothing but a SHAM! Studies have proven that generally the quality of our education has NOT improved since the proliferation of “Charter Schools”.

    No. . . the profit motive of “Capitalism” does not make “Everything” better!

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