Schools vote to hire 28 armed security pros

Brevard Public Schools will hire 28 armed school security specialists to bridge the gap in schools that are not expected to have School Resource Officers in place by August.

The School Board approved the plan at its May 8 meeting, while at the same time tabling indefinitely the school marshal plan, which would have allowed school staff who volunteered for specialized training to carry weapons in school.

“We are glad that they decided to keep guns out of the hands of anybody that has another responsibility at the school, whether that was an administrator, a bus driver, a secretary,” Brevard Federation of Teachers Vice President Anthony Colucci said after the board vote.

“We think in the end that this was a pretty good compromise, and we’re hopeful that it will be a successful program that will keep our students and teachers safe.”

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act mandates that all public schools must have armed security on campus when the next school year starts in August. The issue has divided parents, teachers and community leaders who have strong opinions either way about arming school personnel.

The new school security specialists will be paid by the school district and will earn about $40,000 a year. They will be trained by the Sheriff’s Office, under the same program originally intended to train school staff members for the voluntary marshal program.

The specialists would be expected to respond immediately in an active shooter situation.

But, unlike SROs, they would also be responsible for monitoring overall school security measures such as cameras, perimeter fences, and entry and exit doors.

“I believe we need a proactive security force, and this gets us there,” School Board chair John Craig said before the vote.

“It is not, I believe, a compromise. It is a way to harden our schools and add another layer.”

The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for SROs in about one third of Brevard’s schools. The rest are covered by municipal law enforcement agencies including the Satellite Beach, Melbourne Beach and Indian Harbour Beach police departments.

Thirty-eight schools currently have SROs. The Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies have told School Board officials they expect to have 60 schools under SROs by the first day of the 2018-19 school year. That would leave 28 schools to be covered by security specialists.

The School Board voted unanimously in favor of the security specialist program.

The motion to indefinitely table the marshal plan passed by 3-2 vote, with members Matt Susin and Tina Descovich voting against it.

“I voted against tabling it because I think the community needed to know and hear from all of us on where we stand,” Descovich said.

Descovich told the School Board she still supports the idea of the voluntary marshal program, in schools that have the right people for the job.

“What we would be identifying and the what the sheriff would be identifying are people that have already served in positions of protection of us in their prior jobs. I can’t help but think they’re already in our schools,” she said.

“No, they’re not in every school. I have plenty of my own schools in my own district that I can walk through and I know there’s no credible candidates. But we do have them within our district.”

It’s not clear if the security specialists would remain in place once every school has an SRO, but Descovich said after the meeting that she thinks the security specialists should be a permanent addition.

“I want to see an SRO in every school and the school safety officer in every school,” she said.

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