The majority of beachside public schools will have School Resource Officers on staff early in the next school year, according to local police and city officials.
The Melbourne Beach Town Commission voted 3-1 last week to fund an officer for Gemini Elementary School. Commissioner Steve Walters cast the dissenting vote.
“In today’s society it’s a necessity that unfortunately has come forth,” Melbourne Beach Police Chief Dan Duncan said. “It’s not just a School Resource Officer being down there for security, they also will have lesson plans and teach the students about bullying and drugs and bicycle safety, and they’ll be a counselor to the children and a mentor.”
Walters cited concerns about long-term costs to the city in his vote against the proposal. The SRO positions are funded in part by the school district. Melbourne Beach Town Manager Bob Daniels said the School Board is paying $52,000 for the Gemini SRO, and the cost to the town is estimated at about $13,000. The agreement between the town and the district is for one school year only.
The Brevard County School Board recently passed a policy that supports putting a School Resource Officer in every school, but the Sheriff’s Office has said it could take several years to fill every position. In the meantime, the district is hiring armed security guards for schools that won’t have an SRO by the time school resumes in August.
Most beachside schools benefit from having local law enforcement agencies to provide an SRO, rather than relying on the Sheriff’s Office. Only three beachside schools – Hoover Middle School, Indialantic Elementary and Sea Park Elementary – fall under the sheriff’s jurisdiction. “We’re a local community so it’s easier for us to get things done quicker,” Daniels said.
The Indian Harbour Beach Police Department currently has officers rotating to Ocean Breeze Elementary for security, but not a full-time SRO. The current security plan was worked out after a series of threats made by a student at the school earlier this year.
Indian Harbour Police Chief David Butler said that will change next school year, when the department will assign a full-time SRO to Ocean Breeze.
Satellite Beach Police Commander Brad Hodge said his department already provides SROs for Satellite High School and Delaura Middle School, but will add two more next year for Holland and Surfside elementaries.
All three police officials said they intend to place veteran police officers in the SRO positions, and hire new officers to replace them in their departments.
They also said they view the SROs as more than just security.