Brevard School Board says no to arming staff with guns, yes to hiring ‘security specialists’
- May 28, 2018
- Posted by: Moise Louissaint
- Category: Security Guard News
The BPS on Tuesday voted to postpone implementing the plan to arm school staff and instead opted to hire full-time armed “security specialists.”
The Brevard County School Board on Tuesday decided to postpone implementing Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s controversial proposal to arm school staff and instead opted to hire full-time armed “security specialists.”
School board members and district officials are calling the new plan a “compromise,” but many of the Brevard residents who attended Tuesday night’s meeting in Viera argued the plan still puts more guns in schools in the hands of insufficiently trained people. The security specialists will go through the same 176 hours Ivey proposed for school employees and carry guns during school hours.
This new option to hire security specialists was introduced last week ahead of Tuesday night’s vote as an alternative to Ivey’s Sheriff-trained Onsite Marshal Program, known as S.T.O.M.P., which would have trained and armed school employees with guns. Teachers would not have been eligible for the program, but principals, custodians, deans and cafeteria workers could have volunteered.
The board voted 3-2 to postpone implementing the S.T.O.M.P. proposal in order to keep the option available in the future, with board members Misty Belford, John Craig and Andy Ziegler voting to postpone and Matt Susin and Tina Descovich voting against. If the board wanted to adopt the program down the road, the board would have to vote to add the item to a future agenda.
“I support every single layer of security that we can come up with for my children and for our students,” said Descovich, who has been very vocal about her support for the S.T.O.M.P. plan.
Brevard students tell us why they support or oppose the program.
Of the proposal to hire security specialists, Trudi Onek, a bookkeeper at Palm Bay Magnet High School, said, “It’s the same funding, the same training. It’s just bringing people in off the streets instead of your own employees.”
Lara Tarrillo, a parent with students at Viera High School, said the plan to hire security specialists is little more than the “latest incarnation of the S.T.O.M.P. guardian program” and the employees who would fill the positions would be “underpaid, undertrained armed civilians.”
Opponents of the S.T.O.M.P. proposal wore sombreros, graduation caps and pointed elf hats to illustrate that “our faculty already wear too many hats, so with the S.T.O.M.P. program please don’t give them another,” said Karly Hudson, a junior at Melbourne High School.
Twenty-eight people signed up to speak during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, a sparse turnout compared to previous meetings.
Most everyone against the proposal to arm school staff urged the board to instead hire more armed school resource officers for every school – an initiative the board has said it cannot afford and local police agencies say they do not have the manpower to achieve.
Fans of Ivey’s plan implored the school board to drop the new proposal to hire security specialists and allow school employees to carry guns as part of the S.T.O.M.P. plan.
“I think it’s important for us to remember at Parkland it was not an SRO diving in front of students under the hail of gunfire to save lives,” said Nick Tomboulides, vice chairman of Brevard Republican Executive Committee. “It was a coach and a mentor, Aaron Feis, who did that, and it was a shame that he didn’t have the tools he needed to save his own life and the lives of more students. Let’s not make that mistake here.”
The school district will start hiring School Safety and Security Specialists this summer as soon as the board approves a job description for the position. The specialists will be full-time district employees whose “sole purpose” is security, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn said. They will be armed with guns during school hours, but unlike volunteers under Ivey’s S.T.O.M.P. plan, their identities will be known by the public. The board did not specify what kind of firearm they would carry.
Board members Craig, Ziegler and Descovich spoke in favor of the proposal to hire armed security specialists. Board members Misty Belford and Matt Susin did not speak on the proposal.
“This is a proactive measure. We need to move forward, and I think this is a great idea,” said Ziegler.
Trudi Onek, a bookkeeper at Palm Bay Magnet High School. discusses why she’s against the guardian program to arm some employees.
Descovich said she does not have any concerns around the proposal and said it was crafted based on feedback from residents. Craig said he is “very in support” of the plan and believes it will add an additional layer of security to the county’s schools.
Audience members heckled the board after they voted unanimously on the proposal, while some applauded their decision. Some shouted, “Shame on you!”
According to a draft of the job description, security specialists will be responsible for:
- Conducting perimeter and inner school campus checks throughout the day.
- Monitoring students at school and after school activities.
- Responding to “and engaging to stop” an active assailant.
- Monitoring surveillance technology, operating metal detectors and conducting searches when necessary.
- Providing support during emergency situations and participating in emergency drills.
- Preparing security logs, memos and procedures for documenting activities.
- Investigating unusual incidents and collaborating with personnel to look into violations of school policies.
READ THE FULL JOB DESCRIPTION DRAFT:HERE
Applicants for the specialist position must be 21 years or older and be able to meet certain physical requirements.
Brevard County parents discuss arming school staff in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. (Video by Isadora Rangel)
There are three levels of specialists that each come with their own set of requirements. A “grade 12” specialist, for example, requires four years experience as a police officer, military security or private security personnel. Other levels require at least four years experience in loss prevention, military, security guard or related experience.
The specialists will be paid $40,431 in salary and benefits, and go through the same 176 hours of training through the Brevard Sheriff’s Office that Ivey proposed for S.T.O.M.P. volunteers, as well as background checks, psychological screenings, drug tests and interviews. Specialists must also acquire a concealed weapons permit.
The board was unsure if the specialists would wear uniforms, but said they would have no law enforcement authority outside their duties on school campuses.
The district’s chief operating officer Mark Mullins estimated the total cost to hire the necessary security specialists and a supervisor at $1.2 million. The money that was provided by the state for districts that implement marshal programs similar to Ivey’s S.T.O.M.P. proposal will go to the Brevard sheriff’s office to cover their costs to train and arm the security specialists.
In mid-April, Ivey recommended tabling the marshal program, saying he was concerned the divisiveness of the issue would take attention away from the discussion about hiring additional resource officers.
Raw footage of school board candidate Dean Paterakis removed from a May 2016 school board meeting when the board found the subject of his commentary inappropriate for the meeting. Video by Tim Shortt.
Hiring full-time School Safety and Security Specialists was thrown on the table last week following months of debate among parents, teachers and students over whether school employees should be trained and armed to respond to active-shooter situations. The district hosted three town halls over the past few weeks to discuss the S.T.O.M.P. proposal and it was not until the last town hall in Titusville that the alternative to hire security specialists was presented.
A recent non-scientific poll by the district showed that students, teachers and school employees opposed the plan, while parents narrowly supported it. However, dozens of residents against the plan have attended and picketed outside recent board meetings, threatening to pull their kids out of public school, quit their teaching jobs and vote out school board members if they vote for arming staff.
The district did not poll residents about their opinions on hiring security specialists.
Glenn is the education reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Glenn at 321-576-5933
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Bill Mick, host of Bill Mick LIVE on WMMB, defends the school guardian program Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey has proposed. (Video courtesy of Bill Mick)
In a surprising move, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey has pulled his proposal to train and arm school personnel. Video by Rob Landers. Posted April 11, 2018.
On Facebook, Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey made his case for a controversial marshal program to train and arm school staff to respond to an active shooter situation.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and School Superintendent Desmond Blackburn, Ph.D. talk about Brevard school safety in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting. Video by Tim Shortt. Posted 2/26/18.
On – 08 May, 2018 By Caroline Glenn