BRADENTON, Fla. -- All Manatee schools will have a law enforcement officer as of Monday, according to the school district. The news comes after school district leaders and law enforcement agencies met late Monday afternoon.
School board chair Scott Hopes says all parties are committed to making schools safer. The district is adding 34 new officers and deputies, including one at each elementary school and a second at each of its middle and high schools. Hopes estimates the cost to cover the extra security for the remainder of the school year is around 1.2 million dollars.
The decision is made on a day when the false school threats keep coming and so do the arrests.
Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota closed today after a social media threat on Snapchat circulated over the weekend.
Late this afternoon, Manatee deputies arrested a 14-year-old teen for writing a false threat on the bathroom wall at Bayshore High School. That makes seven Manatee students arrested so far.
As much as Manatee schools try to get back to normal, an extra school resource officer on campus at Manatee High School is a reminder of the reality.
“I’m kind of scared to go between classes,” said Skylar Hendler, 15, a freshman at Manatee High. She wishes she could focus on school work.
“What if a fire drill happens. Am I to go, or not go? We have to think about where we exit the classroom if someone comes in with a gun,” said Skylar.
“It’s been stressful on law enforcement, stressful on school staff and administration, and stressful on the students,” added Lt. Brian Thiers with the Bradenton Police Department.
Last week, the school went into lockdown three times for false school shooting threats. Two students were arrested.
“We’re not changing our strategy of heightened security at all school campus. Both in uniform and undercover,” said Thiers.
The Manatee School District wants to double the number of student resource officers in middle and high schools and add one to each elementary school. That’s 34 new school resource officers and 22 of those elementary schools are in the City of Bradenton. The police department says that’s a tough order to fill.
“Where are we going to find the officers? We are staffed. We don’t have extra officers sitting around waiting to be deployed. We will have to work out where they will come from,” said Thiers.
But Hopes said the school district and law enforcement will find a way.
“I don’t care where these officers come from, but they will be on these campuses. We are going to do what it takes to get them here,” said Hopes.
As promised, those extra officers will be in place on Monday. He suggests officers take up SRO duties as off-duty work and the school district pay for it.
Hopes said, “We’re not waiting, I am not waiting for the legislature to wind up this budget session. We’re going to secure school to the best of our ability.”
“We are doing everything in our power to keep schools safe,” added Thiers.
The tougher job may be easing the minds of the students they’re protecting.
Skylar said, ”It shouldn’t be so much of a hazard for students to go to school and get an education.”
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