Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco elementary schools won't have armed deputies

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County elementary schools will not have armed deputies on campus when students return to classes on Tuesday.

The officers' presence in the days after a shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut was a short-term measure designed to alleviate fears in the immediate aftermath of the incident. But neither the school district nor the Sheriff's Office have the resources to continue staffing the county's 46 elementary schools with deputies.

"It would pretty much decimate our local patrol function," Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said. "We have to focus our efforts where the crime is actually occurring."

Deputies and specialty unit officers will pay added attention to school zones within their regions as time permits, and respond to threats as necessary, Doll said.

School district officials had other concerns about placing resource officers with guns in the elementary schools, where the district traditionally has not assigned them. At most, the district has based six SROs in elementary schools on a rotating basis — primarily serving schools with students with severe emotional and behavioral disorders — but scaled back that number amid declining finances.

They did not want to suggest that the schools are unsafe and requiring armed guards, and they also did not want to create a false sense of security for children or their parents.

"No one can predict who is going to engage in this type of violence," assistant superintendent Ray Gadd said.

Gadd has met with Sheriff's Office leaders to review the schools' safety procedures, as well as recent vulnerability assessments, for any gaps or problems.

But schools do not have resource officers in middle and high schools because they think a shooter is going to walk in, Gadd observed. They are there to deal with other issues that relate to older students and generally do not crop up among the youngest students.

Land O'Lakes mom Wendy Seth was not satisfied with the official reaction.

Seth urged the district to maintain armed officers at all elementary schools during the School Board's Dec. 18 meeting, right after the Connecticut shooting.

"If someone has a Second Amendment right, then my children's human rights need to be taken care of," Seth argued.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said at the time that while safety is key, he did not like the message sent by keeping officers with guns in elementary schools. Seth, who has two children at Lake Myrtle Elementary School, turned her attention to the Sheriff's Office, sending emails pressing the issue.

"When it comes to the safety of children, we've got to find a place in the budget for it," she explained to the Tampa Bay Times.

Seth called it "deplorable" that the decision not to keep deputies in the elementary schools was based on staffing and dollars. She noted that other school districts, including Hillsborough, have found ways to continue to assign officers to elementary schools after winter break.

Hillsborough School District spokesman Steve Hegarty said the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police Department made the call to place officers at the schools. They will be committed through the end of the school year.

In Pinellas County, by contrast, the district will take steps similar to those in Pasco — reviewing emergency response plans and ensuring all employees follow them appropriately, but not maintaining a police presence at elementary schools.

"The biggest reason for resource officers is not for making sure people aren't coming in. It's to work with the students … and make sure they're on the right track," Pinellas School Board chairwoman Carol Cook said. "In elementary schools, we haven't found the need."

Gadd said he would watch Tallahassee to see if lawmakers or the governor add funding to the budget for elementary school officers, as some including Pasco Rep. Mike Fasano have proposed. At the same time, he suggested, the resolution might also involve other related issues as wide ranging as gun control legislation and mental health supports.

He expected the issue of elementary school resource officers to become part of the School Board's deliberations as it sets priorities for the 2013-14 budget.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Pasco elementary schools won't have armed deputies 01/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 8:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  2. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement
  3. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulffront hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests at the Don CeSar Hotel relax Tuesday on St. Pete Beach. That night, the City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance to allow hotel guests to drink alcohol in permitted beach areas.
  4. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  5. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark

    National

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    From left, Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact executive director, introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, PolitiFact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair; and Neil Brown, Tampa Bay Times editor and vice president, at the Poynter Institute on Tuesday.