BRADENTON – After the Manatee School District's first week with private security officers at its elementary campuses, Superintendent Rick Mills made announcements on possible issues associated with the new policy that recently surfaced, during a school board meeting that heard board and community member discussion on the new policy.
In his opening remarks during the meeting, Mills advised he would ask Byron Shinn of district internal auditor Shinn & Co. to audit the RFP (Request For Proposal) process concerning the contract that was eventually awarded to Sarasota Security Patrol. "I want him to particularly focus on this contract and to come back to the board and community and report the findings and recommendations," he said.
The auditing announcement came after accusations of an unfair RFP process were alleged two weeks ago by one of the companies that lost the bid for the contract, which administration and staff attorney Mitchell Titelbaum have denied.
Mills also said that he had sent a letter to state Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday asking about the legality of allowing the district's original plan for its newly placed private security guards to carry guns on public school campuses. The district announced last week that though administration believes that state statute 790.115 supports allowing armed private security guards on campuses, another statute, 1006.12 that appears to conflict with 790.115 was discovered before implementation. The district's plan to have the guards armed has been frozen until clarification could be given by the Attorney General.
He also said he had a recent work session with Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube, Bradenton Chief of Police Michael Radzilowski and Palmetto Chief of Police Rick Wells, that they were "very receptive" in collaborating with CSOs, and suggested the possibility of having five or six SROs help patrol the district's elementary schools.
During the meeting, some commenters protested the new policy. Linda Neely said that funds for security would be better spent elsewhere, saying the possibility of a school shooting in the county is tiny and argued that one security officer covering a school would likely be ineffective at defending an attack by a gunman.
Inaki Rezola said, "I think some of the challenges that we now face in having to ask for a legal opinion (on whether arming CSOs would be legal under state law) possibly show that the decision was rushed."
Arguments that the district rushed its plan to put CSOs in its elementary schools were echoed by Board Member Dave Miner, who said during discussion near meeting's end that "We should say 'let's be honest - this was rushed,'" and suggested the board reconsider the contract.
Mills has argued that the process for outlining, reviewing and eventually approving the plan was "far from being a rush," noting that the proposal for private security was first introduced by district staff on July 31st before being approved by the board (in a 3-2 vote) on September 9.
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