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News Section: Schools and Education

School Board Postpones Vote on Armed Security for Elementary Schools

Published Wednesday, August 27, 2014 9:00 am

BRADENTON – A vote to contract armed security services for Manatee elementary schools was tabled at Tuesday's Manatee School Board meeting. The motion to table the contract to the next board meeting was approved with a unanimous vote.


The contract as written, if approved, would hire the firm Sarasota Security Patrol, Inc. to add a security guard to each elementary school in the district (with the exception of Anna Maria Elementary, which will retain the resource officer it has used in the past by helping pay for his service). 


The administration said at a previous meeting that hiring a local law enforcement officer to man each of the district's elementary schools would be too expensive for the current school year. They said that hiring out such assignments to a firm would cost the district $1.3 - 2.3 million less, explaining that while high schools and even middle schools warranted an actual law enforcement presence (because actual crimes tend to happen on those campuses), the focus at elementary schools was purely security and that the firm's armed officers, who are retired military, federal agents, and former law enforcement, would be more than adequate.

Board member Dave Miner, who has voiced heavy opposition to hiring a private security firm for such a task, said he wanted more time for the public to be informed on the issue and the administration's recommendations before a vote.


Board member Barbara Harvey, who had advocated for hiring private security in the district's elemenary schools, said she had received some concerned emails from citizens, some of which she said contained concerns that were born from factually incorrect information. She said she wasn't happy about putting off added security to schools, but would agree with tabling the issue to the next board meeting.


Miner has stated he does not want non-law enforcement security on campuses, saying many times that he was wary of having the district's students be near armed private security guards, which he called "rent-a-cops" at a previous board meeting. Two security officers spoke at the following meeting against the characterization, with one citing his background as a longtime corrections officer before his retirement from law enforcement.


Administration staff has noted that many security firm officers are former military and retired law enforcement, and would receive extensive background checks and undergo training which would be assisted by the Sheriff's office, were they given a position at an elementary school in the district.


But at the end of Tuesday's meeting, Miner told of a hypothetical situation where a private security officer gets into an altercation with a parent at his assigned school, lets his ego get the best of him, and fires a bullet, which then ricochets off an object and kills a child. Miner did not explain what would prevent this hypothetical scenario from being outside the realm of possibilities if a law enforcement officer were in the same position.


The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 9.

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