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Police in Jacksonville schools to carry Tasers

Police officers working in Duval County middle and high schools will soon carry Taser guns, joining the ranks of several Florida counties where the stun guns are issued to school resource officers.

Some school officials were surprised by the pending action, saying they were not told by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office that it planned to issue stun guns to school officers.

The Sheriff's Office has signed a $1.8-million contract with Taser International to buy 1,800 Tasers over the next two years.

Two School Board members, Brenda Priestly Jackson and Kris Barnes, opposed the move.

"Can't a couple of adults take down a child?" Barnes said.

Some parents say the weapons are excessive and could easily be misused, especially against children who have attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder.

Reta Russell-Houghton, president of the Duval County PTA/PSA, said Tasers in schools are inappropriate because children react differently from adults.

"What officers might perceive as a life-threatening situation at school might not be," she said.

School superintendent John Fryer declined to comment, but plans to meet with Sheriff John Rutherford soon about Tasers.

Duval County follows Clay, Nassau, St. Johns and Miami-Dade counties in giving resource officers Tasers.

Since 2001, Clay County officers have used Tasers on three unarmed students, essentially because they did not follow officers' orders. They were not injured. Superintendent David Owens has said Tasers are a safe way to break up fights and avoid injuries.

Putnam County, which approved the weapons last year, has used it on four students.

In October, Miami-Dade County resource officers used a Taser on a 6-year-old who was wielding a shard of glass.

State Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, has prepared a bill for the next Legislature to ban Tasers in all Florida schools.

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