BRADENTON — The School District of Manatee County welcomes new Community Security Officers into elementary schools beginning tomorrow morning, Wednesday, September 17, 2014. The CSOs will provide an additional security presence at all district elementary schools that do not currently have an SRO. However, due to legal concerns raised during the last 24 hours, the CSOs will be deployed on an unarmed basis until further notice.
“After consulting with outside legal counsel and our staff attorney, it is our opinion that there is no prohibition by statute that prevents armed security guards being placed within public schools,” said Superintendent Rick Mills. “However, the statute upon which the district relies is in a gray area. Therefore, to err on the side of caution, the district will deploy the CSOs unarmed and seek an opinion from the Attorney General to interpret the statute on which the school district relies.”
The Superintendent emphasized that the CSOs will still be able to provide an increased sense of security to local campuses and can take this opportunity to get to know the students, school staff and parents in a way that will be beneficial to all parties involved. In addition, Mr. Mills said there is precedent for unarmed security personnel in other school districts around the state and nation, including Dade County Schools.
The addition of the new CSOs is in perfect alignment with the district’s Strategic Plan, which was created and developed in collaboration with the Manatee County community. Safety and Security is one of seven primary goals in the Strategic Plan, and the intent of the Safety and Security goal is to: “Establish a culture of safety and security with consistent procedures for all district facilities while maintaining a welcoming environment.” Four “Focus Areas” identified under the goal of Safety and Security include: “Personal Safety and Security; Facility Safety and Security; Crisis Management; and Customer Service Management.”
“We believe the Community Security Officers will help our elementary schools in achieving the goal of providing our students and staff with a safer and more secure environment so they can keep their focus on teaching and learning,” said Superintendent Mills. “Having a trained individual at each of our schools whose primary responsibility is to provide additional safety and security is a way for us to have consistent procedures throughout the district.”
Duties to be performed by the CSOs include patrolling school grounds, reporting damage or unusual or suspicious conditions, assisting with pedestrian traffic control including during morning and afternoon drop off and pick up times as well as working with principals and school staff in other areas of need.
“I appreciate the support that the school board and district have provided in regards to safety and security,” said Myakka City Elementary Principal Kathy Price. “As a school leader, it gives me peace of mind knowing that my students and staff will have additional protection to ensure a safe learning environment.”
District leadership has been busy the past week paving the way for the introduction of CSOs into the schools. A timeline detailing the progression of events leading up to the introduction follows:
September 11-15, 2014: Representatives of Sarasota Security Patrol, Inc., and Troy Pumphrey of the Manatee District’s Office of Professional Standards met with Principals at all elementary schools that will house a CSO. Principals expressed security concerns specific to their campuses and discussed the duties and expectations for CSOs. Representatives of Sarasota Security Patrol that visited schools included President Chad Ritchie, Vice President of Operations Ron Targaszewski, Captain Evans Padilla and Lt. Daniel Whittaker.
September 15, 2014: Representatives of Sarasota Security Patrol and district officials met with representatives of local law enforcement agencies at 10 a.m. at the School Support Center to discuss working together. Law enforcement agencies represented included the Bradenton Police Department, the Palmetto Police Department and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
September 15, 2014: Representatives of Sarasota Security Patrol and Mr. Pumphrey met with representatives of the Manatee Education Association (MEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at 2 p.m. at the School Support Center.
September 15, 2014: Representatives of Sarasota Security Patrol and Mr. Pumphrey met with representatives of the Manatee District’s Transportation, Maintenance and Capital Planning Departments at 3 p.m. at the district’s Matzke Complex.
September 16, 2014: At 3:30 p.m. in the Board Chambers at the School Support Center, Superintendent Rick Mills hosted a gathering of all the new CSOs and principals from schools that will house a CSO. During the gathering, principals had an opportunity to meet and converse with the CSOs.
September 17, 2014: CSOs begin duties at elementary schools.
“As we all know, there are situations that arise where an individual with a law enforcement background would be helpful in determining next steps,” said Prine Elementary Principal Guy Grimes. “We are excited to develop a working relationship with our new CSO representative.”
Oneco Principal Tina Stancil also looks forward to working with her school’s new CSO.
“The staff at Oneco Elementary welcomes the addition of the Community Security Officer to our campus,” said Ms. Stancil said. “As a relatively open campus, we have worked to communicate procedures to families and increase safety precautions to keep our teachers and students focused on learning. The addition of the CSO will further support our efforts of having a safe campus.”
Schools will introduce their individual CSOs to their students in a variety of ways, including during televised morning announcements or by walking them from class to class. Parents and the community can find out more about the CSOs and their duties and responsibilities by reading an informational brochure that will be available at each elementary school campus that will host a CSO, or by reading the brochure online at manateeschools.net , where it will be posted on the district’s home page in a gold banner that reads “Information About Community Security Officers.” There is also a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document regarding the CSOs posted under that same banner.
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