Sheriff: Lakeland charter school not complying with school safety law

Polk County

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says his team has checked the entire county and found only one school not following the newly-enacted Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act.

According to Sheriff Judd, Magnolia Montessori Academy in Lakeland is not following the part of the law that requires a full-time armed officer or trained guardian to be on campus while school is in session.

“You’re violating the law and you don’t have the children as safe as they should be,” Judd said.

The school hired Lakeland Police to provide an officer part-time. Board President Alyssia Totten says they cannot afford to hire someone full-time.

“Our school received $5,000 and a requirement to harden our campus and hire an officer,” Totten said.

She says they used the money to make security improvements including fencing and additional cameras.

“There’s no money left to hire someone whether it’s the guardian program, or a police officer or private. There’s no funds for small charter schools and it puts us at a real disadvantage.”

Totten also said they believe they’re in compliance with the law. 

“The act requires that an officer be assigned to every school, but it doesn’t mandate all day or every day. We believe that we are in compliance. There are a number of schools that have chosen to implement the Marjory Stoneman Douglas act in the same fashion that we have, and we feel we have a very safe school,” she said.

While there are no current penalties for not following the law, Sheriff Judd said he planned to enforce it.

“Compliance is not an option, it’s mandatory. It’s just how much public embarrassment are you going to see in the news media, and how much pressure do we have to put on you through the legislature?” Sheriff Judd said.

In light of the sheriff’s comments, the school had a Lakeland Police Officer on campus the entire day Wednesday. Totten said they planned to keep an officer on campus full-time until the issue is resolved.

The school will hold a meeting with parents on Monday evening to discuss options.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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