WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – At his swearing-in ceremony Thursday, a father who lost his 14-year-old daughter in the Parkland massacre in 2018 said he will now serve as an advocate for the school guardian program in Florida.
“I certainly have a different perspective after graduating than I did before. Going in, I knew it was a good program but it was academic for me. It’s real now. And I know it’s real,” said Ryan Petty.
Petty held one hand up and took an oath to protect at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven.
“The best way I can honor Alaina is to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Petty through tears.
He calls his daughter a sweet, kind-hearted young lady.
She was killed on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a shooter who also killed 16 other students and school staff members.
After hundreds of hours of training over several weeks in Polk County, Petty became an honorary school guardian.
He chose Polk County because he believes the county is conducting the training the best in the state.
He won the Top Gun award in his class. Four others were sworn in with him. Their identities are confidential.
Petty calls his fellow guardians his heroes.
“They’ve decided to step up and be that person that’s going to stop that evil,” he said to the guardians. “I wish you had been there for my daughter.”
Florida’s school guardian program allows school personnel to voluntarily undergo firearms training and then carry while at school.
“When someone walks into a business with a gun with the intent of doing evil, when you dial 911, the emergency is already in progress,” said Sheriff Gary Judd.
Andrew Pollack traveled overnight from Oregon to be at Petty’s swearing-in ceremony.
His daughter, Meadow, was also killed in the Parkland shooting.
He’s thankful for the guardians.
“They put their heart and soul into training these centennials and these guardians. They train them like their own children are at their schools and those guardians are there protecting them. I’ve seen it firsthand,” said Pollack.
Some of Meadow and Alaina’s classmates and parents of other victims have come out of this tragedy with gun control reform as their mission.
They have inspired large swaths of the nation in their “March for Our Lives” initiative.
For example, the Twitter bio for Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg, reads: “I will dedicate the rest of my life to the cause of gun safety.”
Pollack and Petty are urging all Florida schools to comply with the law that requires an armed security officer at every school.
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