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Sarasota Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 1 year ago

Sarasota School Board supports more officers in schools

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The school district supports a plan announced by Gov. Rick Scott on Feb. 23.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

Following the announcement of Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to put law enforcement officers on every public school campus in the state, the Sarasota County School Board gave its support for the effort in a release Friday — as long as there’s “funding for the implementation.”

Scott’s plan provides $450 million for statewide reforms, including placing one officer for every 1,000 students in schools, to be implemented by the start of the next school year. The officers must be sworn sheriff’s deputies or police officers, present whenever students are on campus.

Scott’s proposal comes after Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight released his own recommendation Tuesday that the school district hires retired police officers or army veterans, trained by the sheriff's office, to provide protection at schools.

“Sarasota County employs a culture of ‘Education First, Safety Always,’ and the Governor’s plan is a complement to the focused efforts across our school district to keep our students safe,” the School Board said in a release.

Scott’s plan also increases funding for schools to implement security upgrades as needed — a process Sarasota County Schools has already started. Active shooter training will also be mandatory in the next school year, school personnel will be required to get crisis training and a mental health counselor will be put in each school, under Scott’s proposal.

The district also announced its support for the development of an anonymous “See Something, Say Something” hotline, wherein anyone can anonymously report a suspected threat through a phone line, website or mobile app. 

Scott pledged $50 million in additional funding for mental health initiatives, including counseling and crisis management, which the School Board also embraced in its statement. 

“I will be working with the legislature aggressively over the next two weeks to get it done,” Scott said, as the end of the regularly-scheduled legislative session looms on March 9.

The district’s release did not touch on the other aspects of Scott’s plan: to raise the legal age to purchase a gun to 21; to ban bump stocks, which allow guns to mimic automatic weapons; and to allow courts to prohibit a mentally ill person from buying or possessing a gun.  

The release of Scott’s plan follows the mass shooting on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead. On Feb. 20, School Board Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler and Booker High School Principal Dr. Rachel Shelley traveled to Tallahassee to participate in a school safety task force.

The district is accepting suggestions or feedback on how to improve school safety and security through Feb. 28 at [email protected].

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