Brevard School Board Votes To Hire Armed Security Guards

VIERA, Florida – Brevard County School Board members voted 5-0 Tuesday to hire full-time School Safety and Security Specialists, who would be armed and receive the same screening and tactical training for guardians outlined by Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey under the Sheriff Trained On-site Marshal Program (STOMP).

This new alternative plan was announced to public just days before the vote, and was not the topic of discussion at the town halls or in a survey conducted by Brevard Public Schools.

“Whether you support an SRO in every school or not and/or whether you support the ability of school personnel to defend themselves through the Aaron Feis Guardian program or not, the School Board has created an 11th hour “third option” which I have real concerns about — and I believe everyone on both sides of the issue should as well,” State Representative Randy Fine wrote on his Facebook page.

The full-time security specialists would have concealed carry permits and serve as special sheriff’s deputies. These BPS employees would receive $40,431 in salary and benefits, bringing the estimated cost to the school district to $1.2 million.

Fine contends that the security guard proposal would not be eligible for state funding under the recently-passed Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety act because districts must use current employees as volunteers to qualify for the funding.

First in line for the specialists would be 28 elementary schools that will not yet have police resource officers by the 2018-2019 school year. All high schools and middle schools on the Space Coast already have resource officers in cost-sharing agreements with cities and the Brevard Sheriff’s Office.

Next, the board must publicly approve a detailed job description for the security specialists. It postponed indefinitely its earlier proposal to arm staff volunteers.

“I believe we need a proactive security team, and this gets us to that point,” Board Chairman John Craig said. “We have to rethink how we do business.”

Separately Tuesday, the school board approved an agreement with the Brevard Sheriff’s Office that calls for:

· Hiring school resource officers (SROs).

· Active-shooter training for students and staff.

· Making school buildings more secure.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, BPS hosted five staff meetings and three public town-hall meetings where school board members and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn listened to comments and questions about the best way to protect students and staff.

The board and superintendent multiplied their efforts to hear from the public by surveying BPS staff, families and the community from April 23 through May 1. The survey was not a scientific random-sample poll but a questionnaire sent to about 71,000 staff members and BPS families. The district received 14,613 responses to the questionnaire.

Key findings from survey:

· BPS staff opposed (57 percent to 36 percent) the earlier proposal to arm and train certain volunteer staff as deputized guardians.

· BPS parents overall appeared to support the first guardian proposal by at least 3 percentage points.

· Support for arming volunteer staff varied significantly by region. Support appeared strongest in north Brevard; opposition was strongest along the South Beaches and southeast mainland.

· Classroom teachers opposed arming school staff by nearly 2-to-1.

· The 281 students who took the survey sent to households and shared on social media opposed arming volunteer guardians, 201-77.