Don’t bother trying to recall my editorial from last week’s East County Observer. It was pulled from the issue. It was filled with praise for the Manatee County School Board for looking out for the safety of my children by having the courage to bring armed security officers into our elementary schools. With the last-minute decision to, at least temporarily, send those security officers into our schools with empty holsters last week, the editorial, much like the pistols themselves, had to be pulled at the final hour.
This is now, I can assure you, a decidedly different editorial. This is now an editorial written not by a grateful parent, but by a concerned one, whose frustration with the politics of this issue are growing exponentially. Forgive me if I seem impatient waiting for the board to finally put tangible security measures between my children and possible harm’s way; they were so close, and I’ve been waiting since the morning of December 14, 2012, the day I first heard the words, “Sandy Hook Elementary.”
Let me say, for the record, that if Superintendent Rick Mills’ decision to send the security officers into the schools sans firearms was truly a decision to wait for a legal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General of Florida, and not a reaction to political pressure, then I can tolerate the delay. If we look at the fact that Hillsborough County currently has county employees working armed security in public schools and that in Pinellas County there’s armed private security working in at least one private school, I feel confident that Manatee’s plan will stand the legal test.
Hopefully, when the legal opinion is returned from Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, we can implement the program as it was originally approved, because putting unarmed security in our schools is a waste of resources and only serves to make us feel like we’re doing something to protect our children.
Putting full-time armed security officers in our elementary schools is the right decision. It is, I can assure you, the only decision that has the ability to stop the kind of threats that keep parents like me knotted-up inside from the moment we drop our kids off at school, until the moment we pick them up.
There are those that would consider this a political fight; people who would suck this issue into the larger, and arguably futile, gun control debate. I’m not here to debate guns. I’m here to advocate for the safety of my children.
There was a suggestion during this process that security officers in our schools would be a lesser option. If we do this right, I’m of the opinion that nothing could be further from the truth. A working relationship between sworn law enforcement officers and well-screened and trained security officers creates a higher level of safety for our kids than either of them alone.
We don’t need security officers to be sworn. We’re not asking them to conduct criminal investigations, swear arrest affidavits, collect evidence or perform any of the other duties required of a sworn deputy.
We’re asking them to be a deterrent to crime, particularly violent crime, in our schools.
We’re also asking them to be willing to put themselves between our children and a crazed gunman. It’s hard for me to put into words just how much respect I have for anyone, sworn or non-sworn, who is willing to do that for my family.
Brian Blanco is a Greenbrook resident, the husband of East County Sports Editor Jen Blanco and the father of 4-year-old Brendan. The Blancos are expecting their second son in December.