Echoing the new realities students face in the aftermath of school shootings across the nation and in South Florida, Miami Beach plans to place police officers at all public schools starting next school year.
The city and the Miami-Dade County School Board authorized the decision Wednesday. Miami Beach will fund the cost of officers at its schools including Fienberg Fisher K-8, Nautilus Middle, Miami Beach Senior High, South Pointe Elementary, North Beach Elementary and Biscayne Elementary.
The City Commission's vote makes Miami Beach the first city in Miami-Dade to authorize officers at public schools, according to Miami Beach spokeswoman Melissa Berthier.
There will be one armed officer per school, Berthier said. Currently, the city has five unarmed school liaison officers made up of retired police.
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"It is our hope that dedicated law enforcement will be integrated into the fabric of the school community, and be a positive, reassuring force for our youth, Mayor Dan Gelber said in a statement.
Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho told city commissioners that this first move toward assigning school-based law enforcement officers is "invaluable to the school community."
Carvalho said he believes that “school and student engagement with police departments facilitate problem-solving, crime prevention, and critical dialogue related to appropriate student behaviors and to campus security and safety."
He expects similar agreements with other municipalities in Miami-Dade over the coming weeks.
Miami-Dade political leaders had already discussed plans to put police officers on all school campuses across the county even before Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill requiring sworn officers at all schools in March.
The mayors of Miami, Hialeah, Miami Gardens and Miami Beach all spoke with Carvalho on Feb. 14 on the night of the Parkland shootings that left 17 dead and 17 injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which also rekindled a national debate on gun laws.
A week after the Parkland massacre, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said deputies assigned to school campuses in Broward County will be allowed to carry rifles on school grounds.
Douglas High had an armed officer on campus at the time of the shootings. Deputy Scot Peterson has been strongly criticized for not entering the building when he heard gunshots.