Bradenton, Florida -- As Manatee County elementary students return to school they will see a new addition: armed security guards. And, parents' reactions are mixed.
"I think it's a great idea for the safety of our kids and for me it gives me peace of mind when I drop him off," says Jessica McGuire, a parent.
McGuire's son is for it, too. "I'd feel really safe," says Wyatt Couchois, 9 years old.
"I don't want my kids to be around guns," says Justin Alexander, he has two children in elementary school: a daughter entering first grade and a son starting fourth grade.
Alexander says an armed security guard sends kids the wrong message. "I think it sends a violent message to the younger kids they have to have that to protect them while in school," he said.
Manatee County School Board member Barbara Harvey voted for armed security guards, saying safety helps lead to academic success.
"We want them to achieve at the very top of their level if they are going to do that we know they have to feel secure," Harvey said.
Why add armed security guards and not school resource officers?
Don Hall, associate school superintendent, says it comes down to money. A security guard costs about $36,000 while a resource officer costs $102,000.
But, would parents prefer a police officer or sheriff's deputy over a security guard?
McGuire says not really. "I think as long as the security guard is trained properly and the proper background checks are done I think it's fine," says McGuire.
Harvey says the armed security guards would cross-train with resource officers from the law enforcement departments and meet all background checks.
"I still don't like the idea of having an armed person walking around the school all the time," Alexander said.
McGuire says times have changed. "When we went to elementary school we did not have to worry about that but now with all the school shootings you have to worry about it in elementary schools," McGuire said.
The district will spend about $1.1 million on the armed security guards. School officials will seek bids for firms to send in proposals and once approved the training will begin.
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