Leon County Schools considers Guardian program

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The Leon County School board voted unanimously last week to consider adopting Florida’sGuardian program.

The program is used to keep students safe while on school grounds.

The program was initiated after the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting in Parkland, where a former student used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 students and staff. The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Act was created which now requires districts to have school resource officers or trained guardians at every school.

Leon County Schools would become the 44th out of 67 county school districts in Florida to adopt the Guardian program.

In an interview with WTXL-TV the Leon County Schools Safety and Security Coordinator Jimmy Williams said, ”The Leon County School District, up until this point, we’ve used law enforcement because we felt that’s our best choice to secure our schools. But with the shortages and with COVID and other challenges that law-enforcement agencies are facing we are just wanting to utilize the Guardian program as a backfill.”

The Guardian program requires that each guardian complete a total of 144 hours of training in order to be of assistance. It is expected that those chosen for the program will be active or retired first responders — although the program also allows teachers and staff who are trained in firearms to serve as guardians.

COVID-19 plays a major role in the board members’ belief that the district will face many challenges in trying to fulfill the requirements of the Guardian program, although board members said it is needed.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hannas has said the district does not intend to arm teacher, coaches, and other faculty.

If adopted at the school board’s March meeting, the program would not begin until the next school year.

As I understand it, they are initiating this program due to the shortages of law enforcement officers. I am fully supportive of the necessary precautions that our superintendent put in place these past two years. However, I believe that there is a different approach to maintain sufficient safety for our students across the district. Looking at it as a pilot program and basing my knowledge off these incidents happening primarily on secondary campuses, I believe that starting this initiative should not start on K-5 campuses. I believe that this type of presence on primary school campuses isnt as needed and would be better fulfilled on the secondary education campuses,” said a Leon County Schools program director who requested that his name not be used.