Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas considering locks and buzzers for some schools

Some Pinellas County schools may begin locking their doors during the day and requiring buzz-in access, the district's top security administrator said Thursday.

Michael Bessette, the associate superintendent for operational services, told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that he has reviewed about two-thirds of the district's schools and has seen some clear instances where a buzzer would be beneficial and others where it would not.

Bessette said electronic locks and buzzers have become a popular potential security measure after the December shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school left 20 young children and six adults dead.

"Everyone wanted an electronic lock and door buzzer," said Bessette, adding that they were specifically requested by county principals.

The cost of each system would range from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on whether an administrator could see the door or whether a camera would need to be installed.

The school system had already employed buzz-in access at five or six of its schools, Bessette said, in response to specific incidents at those schools.

Bessette said he expects to end his review of the schools and begin making decisions about the buzzers within the next week or two.

The district also has increased the number of "roaming" police officers who monitor the schools.

The School Board plans to discuss safety further at a Tuesday work session.

Amid security concerns after the Newtown shooting, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch spoke with two School Board members about the possibility of funding for school resource officers at the elementary school level. School resource officers are already posted in middle and high schools.

But the proposal received a tepid response from the School Board. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called it unnecessary.

At a meeting of the county's parent-teacher association Thursday evening, Bessette and School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook highlighted safety measures already in place in the schools.

Bessette stressed that administrators conduct site visits to check how secure the schools' perimeters are each year. Recently, he said, a principal was "embarrassed" when officials saw that she had left a gate open, thinking it more convenient for parents during pickup.

Mary Bartholf, president of the county's PTA, said she believes each school needs an individual solution to safety concerns, and is encouraged that the school system appears to be taking that tack.

"I'm truly not certain that putting an armed guard in every school is the answer," Bartholf said. "I think that Michael's team is doing the right thing, determining what's right for each school, to improve the security and control access. What's the best way to do that? I'm not sure."

Editor's note

This story was changed to reflect the following clarification: After the Newtown shootings, County Commissioner Ken Welch spoke with two School Board members about the possibility of funding for school resource officers at the elementary school level. A story Friday misstated his position.

Pinellas considering locks and buzzers for some schools 01/17/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 12:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  2. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  3. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.