A Bay Area sheriff says one ‘good guy with a gun’ is not enough.
Just days before school starts for most Tampa Bay students, 8 On Your Side is making sure schools obey the law to keep your kids safe.
Florida’s education commissioner says he expects every school district in the state will have a law enforcement officer or trained ‘guardian’ on campus when school starts Monday.
“Almost half [of Florida counties] have guardian programs,” said Commissioner Richard Corcoran to Gov. Ron DeSantis in front of reporters. “School doesn’t start until earliest Monday and we think we’re gonna have all 67 counties under your executive order with a safe-school officer in every school.”
An education department spokesperson later told 8 On Your Side that 36 school districts participate in the guardian program, but wouldn’t confirm whether any have armed teachers.
“We do not currently have a list of school districts who are choosing to arm teachers,” said Cheryl Etters, Deputy Director of Communications at Florida Department of Education. “However, moving forward, we will be collecting this information. “
A Bay Area sheriff and president of the Florida Sheriffs Association wants more ‘good guys with a gun’ on every campus.
“Just because we’re in compliance with the minimum doesn’t mean we have enough,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Last year in Parkland, 17 people were murdered and dozens more hurt in a shooting that lasted less than six minutes.
Florida legislators passed a law after the shooting requiring a ‘safe-school officer’ on every campus. That person can be a law enforcement officer or someone armed and trained under the new guardian program.
Gualtieri was the chair of the Parkland Commission that investigated the shooting, eventually recommending in part that teachers who want to participate in the guardian program should be allowed.
He questions whether one officer is enough.
“Where you have 3,500 people, and you’ve got 45 acres, and you’ve got multiple buildings,” Gualtieri said, “anybody who thinks for one second that having one cop or guardian on that campus is sufficient is mistaken. Because it’s not.”
Pinellas County has two school resource officers at each of its 17 high schools and one at each of its 22 middle, exceptional and alternative schools.
Officers and deputies have never covered Pinellas elementary schools until this law went into effect, so those campuses are now being protected by guardians.
The same is true in Hillsborough County.
Gov. Ron DeSantis told 8 On Your Side on Thursday that he supports the guardian program.
“Something like guardian–for me, I personally think it makes sense because they have to go through more training than a typical law enforcement officer would,” DeSantis said, “and there’s ways to screen that. But if you don’t want to go down that road, don’t do it. You obviously elect local people to deal with it.”
Gualtieri is one of the people elected locally to deal with it.
He told 8 On Your Side that Bay Area school districts need more guardians, even if that means teachers.
“This has to be looked at through the lens of what you can live with,” Gualtieri said, “and I can’t live with dead kids. We have to do it differently.”