Advertisement
  1. Education

Pinellas considering locks and buzzers for some schools

Published Jan. 18, 2013

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.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A school bus travels the early morning streets of Pasco County on the way to the first day of classes in 2017.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  3. Stephen Ailing, 54, faces a battery charge. Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    Stephen Ailing, who faces a battery charge, teaches music at Sunray Elementary in Holiday.
  4. Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, on the left, present their latest pay request to the district's bargaining team during talks on Oct. 24, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Teachers have yet to reach a deal on their contract.
  5. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  6. FILE - In a Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, transgender teen Drew Adams, left, leaves the U. S. Courthouse with his mother Erica Adams Kasper after the first day of his trial about bathroom rights at Nease High School, in Jacksonville, Fla. The transgender student's fight over school bathrooms comes before a federal appeals court Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Drew Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, won a lower court ruling in 2018 ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP, File) WILL DICKEY  |  AP
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  7. A bird's-eye view of USF St. Petersburg, which this week announced a new member of the Campus Board. She is Melissa Seixas, a Duke Energy executive who earned her master's degree at USF.
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  8. An LGBTQ Pride march participant walks under a large rainbow flag in New York earlier this year. School Board policy regarding LGBTQ students has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent months in Pasco County. CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP
    The discourse is more civil and respectful, two weeks after a session that many deemed hate-filled and vile.
  9. The Florida Legislature so far has has left Gov. Ron DeSantis to set most education policy priorities for 2020.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Florida Senator Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    The Senate Education Committee will tackle some high-profile issues in its final meeting before session.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement