Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida lawmaker wants to put a school resource officer in every elementary school

With many parents still concerned after last week's mass shooting in Connecticut, state Rep. Mike Fasano hopes to ease their fears by hiring school resource officers for every Florida elementary school.

"They have been extremely successful in both middle schools and high schools," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. "These men and women are trained, they're educated. They can identify when there's a problem. And they have a great relationship with the students."

Fasano sent Gov. Rick Scott a letter Friday asking him to include the measure in his proposed state budget. The move comes after officials from Broward, Orange and Leon counties made similar requests this week. In a letter to the governor, the superintendent and sheriff of Leon County called the benefits of such officers "incalculable."

But the officers won't come cheap.

Florida has just shy of 2,000 elementary schools. The salary and benefits for a school resource officer in Pasco is $71,000, according to a sheriff spokeswoman. Based on that figure — the salary is likely higher in urban counties and lower in rural areas — the total statewide cost could be nearly $140 million.

The cost for the first year would be even higher than that, to cover patrol cars and other equipment.

"We have a $70 billion budget," Fasano said. "I realize that $140 million in anybody's budget is a lot of money. But I think we have a responsibility to … never put a price tag on the safety of a child."

On Monday, Scott called on local school officials to review their security procedures to ensure they provide adequate protection for students. His office released a statement Friday that did not directly respond to Fasano's request. The statement called school safety an "important issue" and said the governor would work with lawmakers on their budget proposals.

Earlier this week, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning said he was hesitant to put officers permanently in elementary schools. He doesn't want to send the message that children are unsafe without armed guards on constant patrol.

But on Friday, Browning said he supports Fasano's idea after hearing from parents who asked him to reconsider his stance. "In light of what's gone on in Connecticut, and Columbine, and Virginia Tech," he said, "the age has changed."

With the Pasco school district facing a potential $23 million shortfall next year, Browning said state funding would be key. "It's something we have to budget for," he said. "You've got to do the right thing. You've got to make sure you've got the money to do it."

Other school officials were wary of the cost and said having an officer on campus doesn't guarantee safety. "At this point, I don't think we're prepared to go there," said Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt. "Having a resource officer is a wonderful thing. But it doesn't ensure anything."

Barry Crowley, Hernando's manager of school safety, added: "If we could afford it, I would like nothing better."

Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner said she hopes her colleagues take time during an upcoming workshop to "have some discussion about all suggestions, including … Fasano's." She said putting armed officers in elementary schools is a serious, complex issue, and she would like to consider it more before making up her mind.

Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia told the county's legislative delegation this week that the state needs to have a "serious discussion" about what it can to do support local security efforts.

Regarding Fasano's specific proposal, district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said, "we would welcome that discussion, although I don't know if that is the answer."

Times staff writers Danny Valentine, Jeffrey S. Solochek, Marlene Sokol and Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.

Florida lawmaker wants to put a school resource officer in every elementary school 12/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 21, 2012 10:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nelson, Rubio want Trump to back off cuts to drug office

    Blogs

    Citing an opioid crisis “devastating Florida,” Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are asking the Trump administration to back off plans to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    A letter to the Office of Management and Budget
  2. US President Donald Trump, left,  meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process. [AP photo]
  3. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times
  4. Flynn to invoke 5th Amendment, won't hand over documents in Russia probe, source says

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he notifies a Senate panel that he won't hand over documents in the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

    In this Feb. 13, 2017 file photo, Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The former national security adviser will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday. [Associated Press]
  5. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall

    Retail

    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]