Brevard Public Schools moves to hire full-time armed security staff


Brevard County School Board members voted 5-0 Tuesday to implement an upgraded plan for arming BPS staff to stop school shooters.

Photo by Julie Sturgeon

 Brevard County School Board members voted 5-0 Tuesday to implement an upgraded plan for arming BPS staff to stop school shooters.

The new plan calls for hiring full-time School Safety and Security Specialists, who would be armed and receive the same screening and tactical training for guardians outlined by Sheriff Wayne Ivey under the Sheriff Trained On-site Marshal Program (STOMP). The board’s decision came after listening to staff and parents for weeks about an earlier proposal to arm and train volunteer school support employees and administrators (teachers would not have been eligible).

The full-time security specialists would have concealed carry permits and serve as special sheriff’s deputies. These BPS employees would receive $40,431 in salary and benefits, bringing the estimated cost to the school district to $1.2 million.

“I believe we need a proactive security team, and this gets us to that point,” Board Chairman John Craig said. “We have to rethink how we do business.”

Said Board Vice Chair Tina Descovich: “They can be walking perimeter fences. They can be checking interior locks. I believe in every layer of security in our schools for my children.”

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 in cost-sharing agreements with cities and the Brevard Sheriff’s Office.

Next, the board must publicly approve a detailed job description for the security specialists.  It postponed indefinitely its earlier proposal to arm staff volunteers.

Separately Tuesday, the school board approved an agreement with the Brevard Sheriff’s Office that calls for:

  • Hiring school resource officers (SROs).
  • Active-shooter training for students and staff.
  • Making school buildings more secure.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, BPS hosted five staff meetings and three public town-hall meetings where school board members and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn listened to comments and questions about the best way to protect students and staff.

The board and superintendent multiplied their efforts to hear from the public by surveying BPS staff, families and the community from April 23 through May 1. The survey was not a scientific random-sample poll but a questionnaire sent to about 71,000 staff members and BPS families. The district received 14,613 responses to the questionnaire.

Key findings from survey (see full results here):

·         BPS staff opposed (57 percent to 36 percent) the earlier proposal to arm and train certain volunteer staff as deputized guardians.

·         BPS parents overall appeared to support the first guardian proposal by at least 3 percentage points.

·         Support for arming volunteer staff varied significantly by region. Support appeared strongest in north Brevard; opposition was strongest along the South Beaches and southeast mainland.

·         Classroom teachers opposed arming school staff by nearly 2-to-1.

·         The 281 students who took the survey sent to households and shared on social media opposed arming volunteer guardians, 201-77.

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