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East County Wednesday, May 30, 2018 11 months ago

Manatee school board moves closer to forming district security force nears reality

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School board votes June 12 whether to implement 'Guardian' program.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

Damon Ackerman, a deputy with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and a school resource officer at Braden River High, said there is a reason personnel from law enforcement agencies do a solid job when it comes to keeping students safe.

“We’re constantly training and being trained in active shooter drills,” Ackerman said of fellow deputies in the Sheriff’s Office.

The Marjory Stoneman High School Public Safety Act requires all Florida schools to have a school resource officer. This can be a law enforcement officer or a qualified individual who has received firearms training (see box, right). 

To comply with the new law, the district needs to hire 30 additional security personnel, but it said funding prevents it from hiring law enforcement for those positions.

When county commissioners decided May 8 not to split the cost with the school district for the additional security positions, the district explored its options. 

Ron Ciranna, deputy superintendent of business and operations, outlined the “School Safety Guardian Program” on May 22 during a school board workshop.

The program will continue to use the 18 law enforcement personnel as it has in the past, but the new security personnel will be the district’s security guards. Ciranna said additional security personnel will cost an estimated $1.38 million a year.

On June 12, school board members will vote on whether to implement the plan. If it passes, hiring will begin immediately so the new security guards can be trained in preparation for the 2018-2019 school year. Their training will include 144 hours with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Ciranna’s presentation to the school board indicated at least a $200,000 savings as opposed to using law enforcement employees. 

“In my opinion, if the numbers are only a difference of $200,000, then I will be going back to Sheriff (Rick) Wells to have a conversation and then come back to the school board meeting on June 12 with a different proposal,” said Scott Hopes, a member of the school board. “I would rather have trained law enforcement in our schools around the children.”

School board member Dave Miner said he isn’t sure whether he will vote for the new program until he knows the numbers.

However, he added, “I think the Legislature and the county are being irresponsible to not fund the resource officers 50-50 with us.”

School board member John Colon said if they do adopt a new program, safeguards must be in place.

“I would rather them use a Taser than a gun,” he said.

School board member Charlie Kennedy said the minimum age for the guardians should be at least 25, not 21 as proposed.

“I know that the male brain doesn’t finish developing until the age of 25,” Kennedy said, “On a crowded school campus there should be as low of a risk as possible. Having a fully formed brain would help with that.”

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