INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — As dozens of students rallied at the courthouse Friday to protest gun violence and call for sensible gun control, area law enforcement agencies and school officials continued to implement heightened security measures at local campuses.
The rallies, which are being held at schools throughout the state and nationwide, and security measures come a week after a deadly high school mass shooting that claimed 17 lives.
“The last seven days have been very emotional,” said Schools Superintendent Mark Rendell. “I want to commend the many students and members of our school community who have responded by showing leadership, compassion and grace.”
Some of the concerns include an increase in threats made to local schools including Indian River Charter High School and a false report of a threat to Sebastian River High School. The threats are usually posted on social media. No arrests have been made.
“These threats not only disrupt the learning environment; they create a sense of fear and anxiety in an already fragile climate,” Rendell said.
On Friday afternoon, about 100 students walked out of Vero Beach High School and marched to the Indian River County Courthouse, said Sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Eric Flowers. The students held a protest against gun violence and for sensible gun laws.
For the next 17 days, 17 desks will sit empty in the courtyard at Vero high to memorialize the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A candlelight vigil was held Monday the Citrus Bowl at Vero Beach High School for those who died.
“I want to thank all of our students for thinking of others and acting in such a positive manner,” Rendell said. “We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the safety of your child everyday.”
On Wednesday, about 200 to 300 people rallied outside the Indian River County Courthouse demanding sensible gun laws and for elected officials to ban assault weapons.
Here are some of the steps officials have taken over the past week to help improve safety on campus:
- Continued increased levels of law enforcement presence on campus
- Improvements of safety school plans, evaluation of visitor check in procedures and records of safety drills
- Conducting safety walks at each school to review security measures
- Completing a full inventory and systems check of school and facility cameras, software, procedures and conducted repairs
- Principals conducting systems checks on their schools’ internal communication system to verify their ability to reach staff and students quickly and successfully
Sheriff’s deputies also conducted training to school principals on updated Active Shooter Response protocols.
“The training affirmed our current procedures, but also gave us information on how to enhance our response capabilities,” Rendell said. “Principals, district staff and law enforcement personnel will be working together to incorporate these improvements into drills we will have in the coming weeks.”