School security bolstered after unanimous vote
The Brevard County school Board voted 5-0 in favor of hiring full-time school safety and security specialists for Space Coast schools at a Viera school board meeting May 8.
Board members Andy Ziegler, Tina Descovich and John Craig spoke favorably about the school safety and security specialist program, while Misty Belford and John Craig offered no commentary. The armed school safety and security specialists will be hired and trained prior to the 2018-2019 school year.
“I believe we need a proactive security team, and this gets us to that point,” Craig said prior to voting. “We have to rethink how we do business.”
First in line for the specialists would be 28 elementary schools that will not yet have police resource officers by the 2018-2019 school year. All high schools and middle schools on the Space Coast already have resource officers.
Board chairman Craig explained that the school Safety and security specialists will be proactive. They will have concealed gun permits and will serve as special sheriff’s deputies. Their identities also will be known to staff and students.
School safety and security specialists must also go through 176 hours of training through the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.
Job duties will include conducting perimeter and inner school campus checks throughout the day, monitoring students on campus, and monitoring surveillance technology. The security officers also will confront an active assailant and use a weapon, if necessary.
“They can be walking perimeter fences,” said Board Vice Chair Tina Descovich of security specialists. “They can be checking interior locks. I believe in every layer of security in our schools.”
A draft of the school security officer job description proposed a salary and benefit package of $40,431, bringing the estimated cost to the school district to $1.2 million.
“We will continue to work on the job description. It’s a really rough draft at this point,” Descovich said. “We welcome ideas on the job description. Email some of us or all of us for some of the requirements you’d like to see.”
“We need a solution for pro-active security,” Ziegler said. “I think this is a great measure.”
Prior to the vote, 28 attendees spoke at the May 8th, meeting, arguing both for and against arming school staff. Citizens against the proposal to arm school staff pleaded with the board to hire more armed school resource officers for every school. On other school security measures, the board members approved an agreement with the Brevard Sheriff’s Office that calls for hiring school resource officers, hardening of school buildings, and active shooter training for students and staff.
In the weeks before the meeting, BPS hosted three public town hall meetings where community members could voice their opinions on school security measures. Several non-scientific surveys also were sent to BPS staff, families, and the community. From those surveys, it was reported that the majority of staff and students were opposed to having armed school employees.
The board also postponed implementation of a voluntary armed guardian program, Sheriff-Trained On-Site Marshall Program (STOMP) in a 3-2 vote, with members Misty Belford, John Craig, and Andy Ziegler supporting postponement. Matt Susin and Tina Descovich voted against STOMP. STOMP allows for the arming of non-teaching staff who are current school employees.