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School District asks for more state aid for school safety

The Gadsden County School District passed a resolution at its June 26 meeting in response to Senate Bill 7026, which was passed by the Florida Senate in March and requires each school to employ either an armed certified law enforcement officer or an armed school district employee trained by law enforcement to be the school’s safety guardian.

The bill was passed due to the increasing threat of gun violence in the state’s schools, in direct response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February during which 17 people were shot and killed.

In the resolution, the Gadsden County School District declares that it will not have any of its employees armed to be school safety guardians, but is requesting the Florida Legislature provide additional funding to help the district pay to have an armed certified law enforcement officer stationed in every school.

The Gadsden County School Board stated that this resolution is the best way to “provide a safe learning environment for students, teachers and staff,” while meeting the mandate of Senate Bill 7026.

Currently, the Gadsden County School District has armed certified law enforcement officers stationed at each of its middle schools and at Gadsden County High School (also called “school resource deputies”), with the deputy whose school is closest by assigned to cover each of the district’s elementary schools should a situation arise.

With Senate Bill 7026 mandating an armed officer or guardian in every school, Gadsden County School District Superintendent Roger Milton said it is now a case of how to come up with enough funds to fund this new program.

“Like most school districts in the state, we are choosing not to arm any of our employees,” said Milton. “Thus, this resolution asks the Florida Legislature to come up with additional funds to help us pay for the additional officers we need in our elementary schools. In this way, our school district will not have to take any funds away from classroom curriculum needs to meet the mandate.”

Gadsden County School Safety Director Bruce James said the school district has had an excellent relationship with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office to provide and train school resource officers for more than two decades now.

“We look forward to the continuing of our successful relationship with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department under these new regulations,” James said. “Under the leadership of Captain Bobby Collins, the Sheriff’s Department works well with us to send us talented school resource deputies who are well trained in working with young people.”

By Randall Lieberman