In the aftermath of the tragedy at , school administrators, community leaders, law enforcement officials, teachers, and parents have analyzed and updated the policies and procedures designed to ensure the safety and security of our school communities.
An unresolved issue from this review is that not all schools in Broward County have a consistent and standard presence of law enforcement. This variance is because a small number of cities are unwilling to fund School Resource Officers in some of their local schools, leaving these students more vulnerable than others.
The , in response to the shooting, passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. Recognizing the lack of consistency in SROs across schools, one element of this statute requires at least one armed safe-schools officer in every public school.
SRO placement in Broward schools depends entirely on agreements — including shared financial commitments — between individual municipalities and the school system. A strong partnership with many municipalities and the Broward Sheriff’s Office has meant that most public schools now have a School Resource Officer on campus. These agreements have all utilized shared funding arrangements, based on a standard formula, between the school district and the local government. Though costly, these agreements represent a collaborative commitment from the school district and local municipalities to ensure the safety of students.
The City of is not among this majority prioritizing the safety of all students. Historically, the leadership of the city has chosen not to provide officers at the city’s elementary schools. They continue this dereliction of community responsibility even after this horrific school shooting. The leadership of the largest city in Broward has, and still does, find it acceptable to not contribute to the protection of its elementary students. We, the parents of the elementary schools in the city, find this unacceptable.
Given the city’s continued refusal to sign a shared agreement with the school district to provide SROs in the city’s elementary schools, the district will be forced to fill the state mandate for armed security personnel at school sites with “school guardians.” The guardian program places an armed staff member on campus with the single responsibility to respond to a shooter if one enters the school. The majority of their training is focused on learning to fire a weapon. These are employees who make between $25,000 — $33,000 per year. These personnel are not sworn law enforcement officers. Nor are they part of a broader community-wide safety agency. Guardians lack the training, experience, and support systems associated with law enforcement officers.
School resource officers, on the other hand, are sworn law enforcement officers. They have a much broader range of training, experience and authority. Their role is to work with the entire school community — administrators, teachers, students and parents — to be proactive in contributing to an overall culture of safety, rather than just reactive in a crisis.
Miami-Dade County to our south and Palm Beach County to our north have rejected using the school guardian option in any of their schools. Rather, they have chosen to value the children of their community enough to commit to placing SROs in all schools. Again, nearly all Broward municipalities have done the same. To them, the benefits of SROs are necessary regardless of the cost. Not so for Fort Lauderdale.
Our children deserve the consistent presence of a law enforcement officer whose training and experience has prepared him or her to collaborate with a school community on elevating safety and security. Our students deserve more than someone with a gun waiting to respond to an armed intruder. Parents of elementary students in Fort Lauderdale want what other Broward municipal leaders have provided: a sworn officer in our schools.
Fort Lauderdale city officials say funding SROs in the city’s elementary schools is prohibitively expensive. We find these assertions to be false and self-serving. City Council members have all espoused needing to maintain a high quality of life and engage in economic development. We assert that smart, sustainable development must include keeping residents — including young residents — safe.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said in August that the School District’s failure to assume full financial responsibility for placing SROs in our elementary schools was “terribly disappointing,” but we find the city’s position and inaction disappointing and irresponsible.
We demand the city stop shirking this responsibility. We demand appropriate funds “to protect the character and safety of our neighborhoods” — of which our schools are central — as promised during the mayoral campaign. Living in Fort Lauderdale should not mean settling for less. We demand you protect our children.
David Rubin, president at Virginia Shuman Young Elementary School, submitted this op-ed on behalf of the parent-teacher organizations of Shuman Young, , , and .