Two of the most important student-safety measures used in Broward County — on-campus police officers and visitor access that is limited to one entrance — aren’t in place at every school, district leaders acknowledged Tuesday.
The security gaps are getting heightened attention after last week’s deadly school shooting in Connecticut. But expanding security protections to all Broward schools won’t be easy, as the district’s tight budget makes it difficult to pay for additional police officers. At certain schools, functioning with only one entrance would require costly renovations — creating another financial hurdle to full implementation.
In a public plea during Tuesday’s Broward School Board meeting, chief of Broward Schools Police David Golt called on state lawmakers to create a dedicated funding source for additional police manpower. Broward operates more than 200 schools but has only 136 School Resource Officers to serve them. All middle and high schools have an SRO, but some elementary schools share one, meaning a particular school will go without on certain days.
Cities contribute some money toward paying for school officers, but cities, too, are in a financial pinch. Because of budget constraints, Broward has dozens fewer SROs than it did only five or six years ago.
“Personally, I believe there should be a SRO in every school in this nation,” Golt told School Board members. “We should never have to speculate again as to whether a police officer assigned to a school, and that marked police car parked out front, could have prevented or mitigated a horrific event.”
Specifically citing the Connecticut shooting, Golt added, “A school principal and school psychologist should not have been the ones to have challenged the armed gunman. A police officer should have ... I think we can best honor those murdered at Sandy Hook by providing School Resource Officers at all of our schools.”
Miami-Dade’s school district could not immediately provide its total number of SROs, but district spokesman John Schuster said every high school has an assigned SRO, while “other police officers are strategically assigned to provide maximum shared coverage to middle and elementary schools.”
Neither district could provide the exact number of schools without single-entrance security.
But Broward School Board member Donna Korn said it wasn’t just the cost that was preventing some Broward schools from shifting to a single-entrance system. At some schools, Korn said the district had completed the necessary renovations, but school administrators were still operating with multiple entrances.
“The reality is, we’ve already invested in many of our schools that aren’t using single point of entry today,” Korn said.
In such cases, Korn said, a school might only need a fence installed to make the single entrance work, or a school staff member might need to relocate their office to another part of the school.
Superintendent Robert Runcie has pledged to review the security plans at all Broward schools, and board members, too, vowed to push for improvements.
“Urgency needs to be put on this matter,” board member Ann Murray said.
Broward schools have seen gun violence. In 2008, a 15-year-old girl shot and killed one of her closest friends in a hallway of Dillard High School. Six months later, Gregory Smith, a 16-year-old Boyd Anderson High School student, was robbed and shot dead while waiting for a ride home from a school dance.
School district activist Jeanne Jusevic told board members it is time for the school system to take decisive action when it comes to improving student safety.
“The thing of it is, we’ve had some horrible things happen in this district,” Jusevic said. “And I’m just wondering, where are the lessons that we learned?”